The ongoing heavy rains in agricultural regions of the country have caused distress to farmers who are now forced to spend more on crop management.
North Rift farmers say they expected the natural rains to boost their crop foliage, but said the magnitude has prompted them to dig deeper into their pockets to purchase agro-chemicals.
“We have no control over heavy rains, but this could have a drastic effect on yields at the end of the season due to fertiliser leaching and additional operational costs on chemicals to prevent diseases,” said Kimutai Kolum, a maize and wheat farmer in Uasin Gishu County.
He said the wet conditions have seen fast sprouting of weeds in maize plantations. This, he said, has forced farmers to do repeated control measures that comes with additional costs.
“Farmers are now forced to regularly buy herbicides for repeated weed controls. For wheat, most farmers spray once a week to prevent stem rust, with costs averaging Sh2,000 per acre. The costs now escalate to Sh8,000 monthly,” said Kolum, who also thanked the government for zero rating agrochemicals from the 16 per cent Value Added Tax.
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Christopher Kiptum, a large-scale farmer, said water logging in most farms had rendered mechanised agriculture impossible.
“Machines cannot operate in muddy fields and we are prompted to wait for rains to subside before planting wheat in affected areas,” said Kiptum.
He added that operations, including top dressing of maize with CAN and spraying to curb weeds, have to be done manually, hence straining resources in paying manual labour. All these extra and manual work impact negatively on the cost of production.
“For large farms, a high number of people have to be hired to spray to control weeds using knapsack sprays,” he said.
Most maize farmers planted from mid-March and April and the crop is yet to flower. Majority farmers are currently applying top dressing fertiliser.
Some few farmers who planted in small scale earlier around areas that can be irrigated or in zones that benefit from two planting seasons are already selling green maize cobs commonly roasted or boiled in urban areas.
Joseph Manjoi, a tea farmer in Nandi, said June is usually a cold season in the cash crop belts, noting that green leaf productivity is negatively affected.
“During this season, it is ideal for tea farmers to apply top dressing fertiliser so that once warmer conditions start towards end of July, the crop vegetates well thus fetching improved earnings,” said Lagat.
He also said they expect tea firms to improve pay for green leaves supplied during the low season in the heavy rains period.