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Economy

Shortage of inputs hits farmers in North Rift

farmer ploughs his land
A farmer ploughs his land in North Rift. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Farmers in the country’s breadbasket are facing difficulties accessing farm inputs and are facing higher fertiliser prices ahead of the planting season due to supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Cereal Growers Association of Kenya chief executive officer Anthony Kioko said Thursday the price of planting fertiliser has gone up by between Sh200 and 300 per 50kg bag.

Farmers are now parting with Sh2,550 and Sh2,600 for a bag of planting fertiliser, up from Sh2,300 that they were paying last month.

Mr Kioko said farmers have been preparing to plant but have been slowed by lack of key farming inputs, and that they expect the shortage to worsen and prices to go up further.

“We have witnessed a shortage of farming inputs with the prices of the little that can be found having shot through the roof. We expect the impact to be much bigger in the coming days,” said Mr Kioko.

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Agriculture Principle Secretary Hamadi Boga said the government is trying to minimise the effect of Covid-19 on the logistics of moving farming inputs to farmers during the planting season.

“Everything is now focused on Covid-19 and as much as we expect market disruption, we are trying to make sure that corona does not hamper logistics,” said Prof Boga.

The main planting season in the North Rift normally starts in March if the rains come on time as has been the case this year.

A few farmers who have planted are also finding it difficult to find herbicides for pre-emergence spraying of their crop to hinder the growth of weeds.

The disruption in farming calendar also comes at a time when farmers have been grappling with an invasion of locusts that have spread across the country, causing severe damage on vegetation.

Government has this year scrapped the issuance of subsidised fertiliser and left the function in the hands of private sector in an arrangement that would see Kenya National Trading Corporation negotiate with manufacturers for direct supply of fertiliser to farmers and National Cereals and Produce Board.

Farmers will access the fertiliser at Sh2,300 for a 50 kilo bag, which is higher than Sh1,800 that they would pay under government backed subsidy programme.

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