By Kenneth Kwama
Local farmers are paying the price of corruption as syndicates in Government corridors fiddle with the supply of fertiliser.
Fertiliser is now retailing at three times the acceptable international prices â thanks to a conspiracy involving policymakers and a web of cartels.
The twin vices have colluded to keep the price of fertiliser sky-high even when global prices are favourable.
The country spends close to Sh18 billion annually to import up to 500,000 tonnes of fertiliser and it is estimated that farmers have lost a cumulative Sh60 billion in over charge costs in the past five years.
Fertilisers used in the country are procured from several parts of the world depending on global market prices and financing arrangements.
A large proportion of the imports come from Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Middle East, and South Africa. New sources of special fertilisers for horticulture are India, China and Singapore.
Parliamentary Agriculture Committee chairman John Mututho says committee members stumbled upon the sad facts while on a visit to Russia and Ukraine â two of the largest suppliers of fertilisers used in Kenya, in 2009.
"We realised that if all costs were added up and businesspeople allowed respectable margins, a bag of fertiliser then retailing at Sh6,000 per bag of 50kg could actually cost no more than Sh2,000," says Mututho.
According to Mututho, procurement of fertiliser in Kenya has been marked by short-term political focus and a bias in favour of tradersâ interests.
The traders have historically wielded influence over Government and policymakers and as a result of the fiasco, farmers have been paying higher prices than necessary.
While acknowledging that there is a problem in fertiliser business in the country, Mr Saulo Busolo, a director at Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) says despite the shoddy deals, there has been no shortage of fertiliser in the country.