Speed up fertiliser checks, orders State

Flower scouter Ms Anastasia Mutheu inspects flowers in a greenhouse at Preesman
Flower scouter Ms Anastasia Mutheu inspects flowers in a greenhouse at Preesman, a flower breeding farm at Njoro in Nakuru on July 3, 2013. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has directed that fertiliser imports be expeditiously inspected at the port of Mombasa to alleviate shortage that has seen an increase in prices of the crucial farm input.

Public Service Deputy Head and Multi-Agency Taskforce on Enforcement of Standards Chairman Wanyama Musiambo, said every tested consignment that meets Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) requirements be released forthwith.

Mr Musiambo also directed the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) to immediately inform his office of any unnecessary delays to facilitate decisive action against officials frustrating the government’s efforts to rid Kenya of counterfeit and substandard goods.

In an interview last Wednesday, KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi decried continued delay in releasing approved consignments that were incurring hefty storage charges.

“We are the third highest foreign earner after tea and tourism as well as employs the highest number of Kenyans at over 300,000. Denying us access to imported fertiliser is akin to stifling our continued growth,” he said.

Mr Tulezi, accompanied by KFC members Mr Patrick Mbugua (Wildfire Flowers), Tom Ochieng (Penta Flowers), Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) director Biraj Williams and AEA Chief executive Wesley Siele met Mr Musiambo last Thursday evening where they expressed their displeasure at the ongoing re-inspection.

“Flower farmers and other bulk importers of fertiliser are being made to pay twice for inspection since Kebs requires each consignment to be inspection at the country of origin by Kebs-appointed inspectors before it is shipped to Kenya,” he observed.

Mr Tulezi said flower firms were facing a bleak future since storage, re-inspection and increased transportation charges risked making Kenya’s retail prices at the global market uncompetitive.

Acting Kebs Quality Assurance and Inspection Director Antony Maiyo said out of 144 consignments that arrived in the last two weeks, 37 containers met all requirements, others marginally failed the test, while another 44 were rejected for ‘significantly’ failing to meet the accepted standards.

Mr Maiyo said 26 consignments with Certificates of Conformity were released upon verification of seals placed on them.

The meeting heard that in the last three weeks, 177 containers out of a 689 consignments were rejected for non-declaration.

Mr Maiyo said re-inspection was being fast-tracked to facilitate release of up to 28 containers every day.

Mr Wanyama directed that fertilisers that marginally fail the test be re-examined within the shortest time possible and flower council be provided with daily updates on goings on at Mombasa port.

“The taskforce should be informed immediately on challenges importers continue to experience. We will continue engaging importers on technical matters arising,” he said.

Wanyama said inefficiencies within essential government institutions, including Kebs had necessitated the scrutiny adding that some regulatory institutions were ‘nonetheless’ over-reacting.

Flower producers rely heavily on fertiliser which they use throughout the year making them the most affected by the shortage.

Last year, Kenya imported 64,353 metric tonnes of chemical fertilisers compared to 56,046 metric tonnes brought in 2016.

In recent months, fertiliser prices have increased by 21.6 per cent following the shortage blamed on stringent vetting of imports and clearance delays at Mombasa Port.

Retailers are selling the 50 kilogramme bag of Calcium Nitrate fertiliser (CAN) at Sh2, 800, up from Sh2, 250 while wholesales are buying the commodity at Sh2, 250, up from Sh1, 800.