Fertiliser imports dropped by 25.9 percent last year, which is expected to hurt food and cash crop production amid tightening supply.
Statistics released by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show Kenya imported 4.42 million bags last year to settle for 632,074 metric tonnes less than a five-year high of 853,113 metric tonnes imported in 2017.
Increased fertiliser imports in 2017 resulted in a bumper harvest that saw Kenya cut maize imports by 60 percent at 529,558.3 metric tonnes compared to 2017’s haul reported at 1,327,971.7 tonnes.
Kenya Flower Council (KFC) chief executive Clement Tulezi said the shortfall, blamed on stringent import terms, will see peasants and large-scale commercial farms compromise on the application of fertiliser, which could derail successes witnessed last year in local and export sales.
“Port clearance hurdles and hefty inspection costs, as well as demurrage charges, have made fertiliser too costly for farmers with two key fertiliser importers withdrawing from the trade citing regulatory frustrations,” he said.
Fertiliser is an integral ingredient in agricultural practices that have been proven to improve yields bringing in higher returns on investments, especially for mechanised operations.
Flower exports, said Mr Tulezi, are expected to drop exposing Kenya’s exports to loss of global market footprints that last year raked in Sh113.2 billion.
Horticulture farmers earned Sh27.7 billion and fruit farmers Sh12.8 billion.
“Higher earnings means better pay for workers, investments and new employment as well as increased spending. But the future is grim since my members are unsure where they will get their next fertiliser,” said Mr Tulezi.
“Flower farming heavily relies on chemical fertiliser and any shortage means a poor harvest and quality.”
A survey of agro-product shops indicated a 50-kilogramme bag of DAP fertiliser currently retails at Sh3,800 up from Sh3,200 while Tanzania farmers get the same product at Sh2,400 and Ethiopia at Sh2,000.