By Njiraini Muchira

Farmers had raised concerns about the scarcity of the crucial input as they prepare for the long rains

The Government is set to import about 60,000 tonnes of fertiliser to avert a looming crisis as the country gears up for the long rains planting season.

The Ministry of Agriculture has put out tenders seeking for suppliers of different types of fertilisers soon after farmers started raising concerns over delays in importation of the critical farm input.

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The move also comes at a time when the Government has put in motion plans to establish a fertiliser plant in the country, so as to save farmers from anxieties associated with delays in importations.

In last few weeks, farmers have been expressing concern over delays by the government to import fertiliser, something they contend would affect their produce.

“The Government should move fast and ensure that it avails the fertiliser in time. Most of us have already finished preparing seed beds,” said John Lolchoki, the spokesperson of large-scale wheat farmers in Narok last week.

Supply fertiliser

But in a newspaper notice yesterday, the Ministry of Agriculture said it is looking for bidders to supply and deliver various types of fertilisers comprising of diammonium phosphate (DAP), mono ammonium phosphate (MAP), calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and chemically compounded NPK. 

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The fertiliser, which will be sold to farmers at subsided prices, is aimed to ease pain on farmers at a time when farm input prices are on the rise.

Currently, the price of fertiliser ranges from Sh2,500 to Sh4,500 per 50 kg bag, depending on whether it is imported by the Government or by private businessmen. 

The importation also comes at a time when the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a Fertiliser Strategy and Action Plan that is meant to keep cost of fertiliser affordable to farmers, while increasing consumption.

Fertiliser consumption in Kenya stands at less than 500,000 metric tonnes annually, with farmers using 25kg of fertiliser per hectare. With the plan, the Government hopes to increase fertiliser usage to 70 kg per hectare in the next five years.

Demand for fertiliser in Kenya is expected to rise to 550,000 metric tonnes by 2020 and 640,000 metric tonnes by 2030.

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Accelerate plans

The anticipated rise in demand, coupled by delays in importation and unpredictable prices, has forced the Government to accelerate plans for a local fertiliser plant. The State is in the process of identifying a private investor to undertake the project that is estimated to cost about Sh30 billion, and which should be in place by 2015.

The Government projects that a local plant could see the cost of fertiliser reduce by between 30 and 40 per cent. A feasibility on the proposed plants has already been carried out by UK consultancy firm Maxwell Stamp at a cost of Sh70 million.