Farmers reject cheap fertilizer, say planting season over

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua flags off a consignment of Subsidised fertiliser to various parts of the country on  September 22, 2022, at Harambee House. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The move by the government to introduce cheap fertilisers has drawn mixed reactions from farmers in the North Rift. 

The government released Sh3.55 billion to subsidise the cost of fertilisers from Sh6,500 to Sh3,500.

According to officials at Nakuru NCPB, the fertilisers are expected towards end of the week.

However, it has emerged that farmers in Nakuru have shown apparent lack of interest on the availability of the fertilisers, with some arguing that they had already purchased the fertilisers at the high price of Sh6,500.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard said they were not in a hurry to purchase the commodity as the planting season had already passed. 

“I read in the papers that the fertilisers were in the various depots within the counties. However, until now I have not bothered to find out whether it was available in Nakuru,” said Paul Njuguna, a small-scale farmer in Bahati, Nakuru.

Njuguna said he did not see any point in purchasing fertiliser now because he already spent Sh6,500 in March to buy fertilisers for maize production on his 15-acre land.

Another farmer, James Bowen, from Rongai says he does not expect to get enough of the subsidised fertiliser for his 100-acre-land should he decide to plant this month.

He said he was sure that the cereals board will ration the number of bags of fertiliser a farmer can get.

“Sometimes they bring fertilisers only enough for two farmers in Nakuru. I prefer to purchase mine elsewhere even though it will cost me more,” said Bowen.

An official from the NCPB who sought anonymity said the Ministry of Agriculture was the best placed to dtermine the number of bags that will be made available for farmers in Nakuru County.

“We need official information from the Ministry in order to release a statement on the subsidised fertilisers. As for now, we are waiting for the fertilisers to be made available to us,” said the official

Joseph Kipkoech says he is only finding out now that there will be cheaper fertiliser. However, he says this does not excite him. 

Kipkoech, a farmer of 40 acres in Njoro says he only plants twice in a year; maize on a 20-acre farm in March and wheat on the other 20-acre farm in May.

“It may not be useful to most farmers including me, who will plant again next year,” said Kipkoech.

He said the government should ensure the subsidy is available next year, during the onset of rains.

“I bought fertiliser at Sh6,500 in March and May and I am not overjoyed unless the fertilisers are held in the store until next year,” he said.

Kipkoech like other farmers hopes the rains will be kind to farmers next year, as he admits that the harvest this year will be low.

Meanwhile, cereals producers in the North Rift region have expressed satisfaction with the latest steps taken by the government on the subsidised fertilisers.

Speaking to The Standard, the farmers stated that the government subsidy program will benefit farmers in areas that will receive short rains before December.

“Most farmers are off-season at the moment but we are happy because we know when the planting season arrives, we will be able to acquire farm inputs at fairly discounted prices, " said Joseph Mutai, a large-scale maize and wheat farmer from Nakuru.

The farmers however called on relevant government agencies to ensure that the products are readily available to farmers devoid of complex procedures.

"Under such a situation, middlemen tend to get between, access fertilizers and sell them at high prices. This is not good for farmers who are already struggling to survive. We need fairness in access of the fertilizer," says Mark Seurey, a wheat farmer at Kiplombe area in Uasin Gishu.

The farmers also asked the government to directly buy maize from them after this season's harvest to avoid hoarding and exploitation by unscrupulous traders. 

"The maize, that is about to be harvested was planted with costly inputs. We bought fertilisers at Sh6,000 among other expensive farm inputs. The government should guard us against impending losses by setting a producer price commensurate to cost of inputs at planting season," says Joseph Mandela from Soi in Uasin Gishu.

Sources at the NCPB who spoke on condition of anonymity said the process of stocking their stores is ongoing and that the inputs would be available by today.

“Priority has been given to regions witnessing short rains season including parts of South Nyanza like Kisii and Migori, Bungoma, Meru, for the production of short season crops,” said a source.

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