A new fertiliser plant is set to be commissioned in Mombasa next month in a move expected to help tame high prices of the farm input and address perpetual food shortage in the country.
Run by the Export Trading Group, a multinational based in Kenya, the Sh50-million blending machine will produce soil-specific brands of fertilisers.
Located at Bonje, west of Mombasa Island, the blending plant is fully computerised, with a daily production capacity of 150,000 tonnes, Shem Odhiambo, the firm's country director, said.
"For a long time, farmers have been using fertilisers that do not address the specific needs of their soils. With this new technology, however, fertilisers will be produced depending on the nutrients needs of different soils in different areas," Mr Odhiambo told journalists at the firm’s premises.
If properly applied, Mustan Taibali, the firm's head of fertiliser said, the blended fertiliser is able to increase yields by more than 30 per cent. However, this will come at a cost as the blended fertiliser's price would be 15 per cent more than the normal ones.
"Ultimately, this is a technology that would address the perpetual food crisis in Kenya, besides empowering millions of our farmers economically," Mr Taibali said, adding that the plant would not only serve Kenya but also Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kenya has been encouraging local production and blending of fertilisers to help cut import costs and reduce subsidies needed to make fertilisers affordable for farmers.
The government spends up to Sh3 billion annually to provide farmers with low cost imported fertiliser. In March this year, Japanese conglomerate Toyota Tsusho launched a blending plant in Eldoret.
For some time now, the government has been pushing for the setting up of a fertiliser plant in the country so as to cushion farmers from high costs and erratic supplies of the commodity. Currently, a feasibility study is in progress to determine if one can be built.
However, experts say building a fertiliser manufacturing plant would be determined by the neighbouring countries’ willingness to consume the fertilisers.
"Kenya's fertiliser consumption is 600,000 tonnes annually and for a plant to make economic sense, it will have to produce more than that quantity each year. That calls for other countries in the region to team up with Kenya to consume the fertiliser," said Mr Taibali.
The Mombasa plant will employ 1,800 people who have already undergone training on how to run it. Benson Omwenga, the production and blending manager, said the blended fertiliser would be of different colour to cushion farmers from rogue distributors.