Wheat farmers brace for losses as disease strikes

Wheat farm. [Reuters]

The high cost of pesticides and an outbreak of stem rust is threatening the current crop of wheat on many farms in the North Rift.

Farmers say the disease has been aggravated by heavy rains currently pounding parts of the region.

The farmers are now struggling to control the disease that requires spraying after every 21 days.

Last year, the Government to imposed a 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on farm chemicals, pushing the cost of required chemicals to Sh6,000 per litre. A farmer requires more than half a litre to spray one acre.

“For effective wheat production, spraying needs to be done after every 21 days to put wheat rust at bay,” said Kimutai Kolum, a farmer.

The farmers are now appealing to the Government to consider zero-rating taxes on pesticides to cushion farmers from high operational costs, saying many of them have already reduced the acreage under wheat.

“There is no money, and wheat producers cannot afford the skyrocketing cost of pesticides to control diseases. Crop yields will definitely reduce further at the end of this season," Johnson Murey, another farmer, told The Standard in Eldoret yesterday.

Others said the spraying did not help.

Felix Kili, another farmer, said although he spent colossal amounts of money on his wheat farm at the early stages of the crop to prevent leaf and stem rust, his crop was already yellowing due to the heavy rains.

"The heavy rains have led to the water logging; the fertiliser we had applied simply leaked through," said Mr Kili.

Samuel Yego, the County Executive for Agriculture, said with heavy rains wheat rust was common in the region. He warned that farmers who failed to spray their farms risked losing the crop.

“It is recommended that farmers spray after every 21 days during heavy rains for optimal production. Wheat cover in the county has gradually reduced due to challenges posed by the fungal disease,” said Mr Yego.

He said his department had enough chemicals to help maize farmers fight the threat of fall army worms but lacked pesticides to control wheat rust.

The official said current acreage under wheat in the county is estimated at 10,000 acres, warning that this might reduce further unless the farmers received subsidies and incentives.

 

By David Njaaga Sep. 22, 2022
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