A parliamentary committee has claimed that cartels were behind the cancellation of a tender to supply subsidised fertiliser for maize farming.
Members of the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee yesterday said the country was staring at a major crisis because farmers were likely to miss the crucial farm input ahead of the planting season.
Committee chair Adan Haji (Mandera West) warned that the lack of fertiliser could cripple one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pillar projects of attaining food security.
“As we speak, there is a crisis as farmers do not have fertiliser. We want CS Kiunjuri and Treasury CS Rotich to appear before this committee to tell Kenyans how they are planning to handle the matter.
“Majority of farmers are suffering. We want to appeal to the President and the new Chief Minister to intervene because if the matter is not handled, the Big Four agenda will also suffer,” said Mr Haji.
A two-year contract by the ministry of Agriculture for the importation of fertiliser lapsed on January 12 after Attorney General Paul Kihara raised concerns about its procurement.
Committee vice-chair Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) claimed cartels were planning to offload already imported farm inputs to farmers at exorbitant prices.
“Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is under siege. Some people are holding the ministry to ransom so that they can sell their fertiliser,” he said.
Haji appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to intervene so that farmers can proceed with planting.
Planting season in the North Rift starts in March and April during the heavy rains.
The committee asked line ministries to do everything within their power – including direct procurement – to make sure farmers have the input from next month.
The committee chair said Mr Kihara was partly to blame for the mess “because he did not advise the ministry on the way forward after canceling the tender”.
Should the Government fail to buy the input by next month, farmers will have to purchase the commodity at market prices from between Sh3,200 to Sh3,500 for a 50kg bag of Diammonium phosphate (DAP).
A similar bag is sold for Sh1,800 under the fertiliser subsidy programme.
Meanwhile, the committee said the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) had disbursed Sh5 billion to buy maize from farmers.
Haji said the NCPB was currently handling storage logistics before it could start receiving the grain.
Three weeks ago, the President directed Kiunjuri to authorise the NCPB to start buying maize from across the country.
The Agriculture ministry, through the Strategic Food Reserve, was authorised to buy two million 90kg bags at Sh2,500 each.
But five Rift Valley MPs said farmers were stuck with their harvest since they have not met stringent delivery pre-conditions introduced by the board.