An acute shortage of fertiliser has hit flower farms across the country, raising fears that it could compromise yields for the multi-billion-shilling sector and lead to job cuts.
The crisis, which has persisted for five months now, is as a result of delay by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to inspect a consignment of 1.6 million metric tonnes of fertiliser meant for the crucial sector.
Industry lobbies, Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and the Agriculture Employers Association (AEA), have warned if the situation is not resolved soon, flower farms could be forced to scale down their operations or close down altogether.
This could lead to job losses for the more than 150,000 industry workers.
This could spell doom for the more than 150,000 workers who depend on the sector and for the economy, with the horticulture industry being one of the major foreign exchange earners for the country.
KFC Chief Executive Clement Tulezi failure to release the fertiliser soon could lead to a drop in output and quality for the sector that raked in Sh28 billion in the last financial year.
“We have held meetings even with the Deputy President over the crisis but Kebs has continued to drag its feet, leading to the current situation where farmers are running short of fertiliser,” he said last weekend in Naivasha.
Mr Tulezi said Elgon Kenya is holding over 750,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser while another 880,000 metric tonnes are being held in Yala awaiting inspection by Kebs.
Cash flow challenges
Kebs has in the recent past intensified the crackdown on contraband, including fertiliser, which has prompted the impounding of the commodity for inspection
Mr Tulezi at the same time said farmers are currently facing cash flow challenges as the Kenya Revenue Authority is yet to make tax refunds totaling Sh5 billion.
“The current challenges coupled with high wages and lack of support from the State have led to job losses despite this sector earning the country a whopping Sh82 billion in the last financial year,” he said.