Fertiliser prices, shortage leave farmers feeling cheated

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Export Trading Group Regional Director Shem Odhiambo inspect imported fertiliser in Mombasa last year.
Kenyans could be staring at yet another multi-billion shillings fertilizer shortage following cut throat competition by dealers that has led to cancellation of importation by the government. 

And as the dealers and Cabinet Secretaries in the Treasury and Agriculture ministries trade accusations, farmers fear there will be an acute shortage when the planting season kicks off in a few weeks. 

There are allegations that some of the dealers in the fertiliserimport are eyeing a Sh2 billion profit at the expense of the farmers whose options have been limited by the banning of some of the companies  

At the moment, a 50kg bag of DAP fertiliser goes for Sh2,800 from Export Trading Group (ETG) warehouse in Mombasa County, while the same from OCP, which is impounded in Mombasa, goes Sh2,300. 

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The difference between ETG and OCP fertiliser -- Sh 500 -- will translate to Sh2 billion given the demand of 200,000 bags in this planting season. 

The government had planned to import at least 2.7 million 50kg bags ahead of the planting season that starts mid next month. According to farmers in the South and North Rift regions, it has become impossible to obtain the commodity and those lucky are getting it at between Sh3,200 and Sh3,800 for a 50kg bag. 

In the meantime, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri is blaming the National Treasuring for not releasing funds, forcing farmers to purchase fertiliser at Sh3,200.

Kiunjuri is still hard pressed to explain where the money from the sale of fertiliser in the past two years that the government gave for subsidy could be, impacting negatively on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda pillar on food security. 

Additional funds

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The CS asked for an additional Sh3.68 billion for procurement of subsidised fertiliser when he appeared before the National Assemble Agriculture committee chaired by Mandera West MP Adan Haji.

Under the subsidy programme, farmers would have purchased a bag of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) at Sh1,800. “Money must be made available in the IFMIS and a clearance from the Exchequer given before we can advertise for the procurement of the subsidised fertiliser,” he told the MPs.

The ministry has engaged dealers to ensure farmers get the commodity.

It has also ordered for 635,000 50kg local blends from Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) firms locally. 

In the meeting, the dealers said they would only supply on condition that the government assured them it would not import subsidised fertiliser. The demand by the traders was informed by the fact that should the government import subsidised fertiliser, they would suffer losses. 

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Farmers are questioning the unfair trade by these companies. 

Last year, four people were arrested in the North Rift and Western regions following a crackdown on traders who abused the Sh7 billion fertiliser subsidy to make a fortune.

The cases were reported in Soy, Webuye, Moiben and Bungoma, where rogue traders repackaged the State-subsidised fertiliser for sale at higher prices to farmers.

Director of the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) Kipkorir Menjo blamed monopoly for the mess in the industry.

“All the players in the industry should enjoy a good level for competition to benefit the farmer. We should liberalise the market and not confine it to a few who have advantage over others,” said Menjo.

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 “We have to know what is going on with OCP fertiliser which has been kept off the market and what the Kenya Bureau of Standard (KEBS) is doing to protect the consumers. If the OCP fertiliser is sub-standard, we want the test results made public,” said a farmer from Nandi.

Menjo disclosed that OCP had signed an MoU with KFA after it samples produced very good yields.

“The beneficiaries were impressed shared their experience with other farmers and demand went up. We put a demand for more to be brought in big qualities, very good yields ,” said Menjo.

Price differences

He regretted that as traders squabbled in Kenya for the market to sell fertiliser, in the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Tanzania, DAP was selling at Sh2,000 and Sh2.400 for a 50 kilogram bag that retails at Sh3,000 in Kenya. 

In North Rift, the country’s food basket, there is a feeling of betrayal by farmers who are unhappy about the perennial shortage.

A section of farmers feel they are not ‘adequately’ represented by the leaders they elected in addressing their concerns. 

(Report by Roseline Obala, Titus Too and Sila Koskey)

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