Farmers scramble for subsidised fertiliser ahead of rainy season
By Titus Too and Lucas Ngasike
| March 1st 2017
North Rift farmers have started to buy subsidised fertiliser through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) in readiness for the planting season.
The farmers, who have already registered with locational agricultural officials and administrators, and paid for the subsidies, flocked to the Eldoret regional NCPB depot yesterday to collect the fertiliser.
Maize and wheat farmers rushed for the subsidised inputs retailing at Sh1,800 for a 50kg bag ahead of the onset of the long rains expected this month. The same amount of fertiliser retails at between Sh2,700 and Sh3,100 in other outlets.
Some farmers in the region have started planting, which has only intensified the scramble for fertiliser.
As the farmers crowded the NCPB premises, trucks were busy emptying more subsidised fertiliser.
The farmers spoke of perennial challenges in the agricultural sector, accusing the Government of limiting them to only 40 bags of subsidised fertiliser and putting them through a long process before they could access it.
Others alleged they were asked to take varieties they had not ordered.
"I plant over 400 acres of maize annually and the Government has given directives that the maximum amount of subsidised fertiliser each farmer can buy is only 40 bags. This amount can only plant 30 acres," said Joseph Sang from Moiben.
Mr Sang said the regulation was discouraging maize and wheat farmers from expanding their acreage.
"I sold 1,000 bags each of 90kg of maize to the State for the Strategic Food Reserves (SFR) through NCPB in the last season's harvest. I also supplied the same quantity of wheat, and agricultural officials, chiefs and the board have my data. I am a genuine farmer and should be given adequate rations of subsidies to enhance production," he added.
He said limiting farmers to only 40 bags of subsidised fertiliser would hurt production greatly and noted that parts of the country were currently witnessing drought, which could only be dealt with if farmers were empowered.
Musa Barno of Uasin Gishu Kenya National Farmers Federation said the country would only be food secure if the Government provided adequate subsidies to farmers on time.
He also complained that limiting fertiliser rations to only 40 bags would deny large-scale farmers the opportunity to utilise their land fully.
Wilson Kipsot, another farmer, said he ordered and paid for DAP fertiliser but was asked by NCPB officials to collect NPK instead.
"We have seen plenty of DAP fertiliser in the board's stores but I am being asked to collect NPK instead. Why are they forcing me to go for a variety I did not order?"
Kipsot said he would not accept any other fertiliser apart from DAP.
James Togom, an official from a farmer's savings, credit and co-operative society in Kabenes, said the county government and agricultural department had approved their orders but the slow process of accessing inputs had affected more than 200 of their members from getting their rations.
"As a society, we handle a large number of farmers and we should be given priority to access the inputs. The process has taken about one week and we are still waiting," said Mr Togom.
And an NCPB official in Eldoret, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said distribution of subsidised fertiliser had kicked off in all depots across North Rift region.
The official added that more deliveries were being made by the Government to the board's stores.
"We started releasing subsidised fertiliser today (yesterday) and the farmers' demand for DAP is very high compared to NPK. Some have committed payments for DAP and have not collected," said the official, who dismissed claims that farmers were being forced to collect varieties they had not ordered.
He said farmers were given the option to pay for their orders through banks or via M-Pesa.
Rose Andanje, NCPB's corporate affairs manager, said yesterday that the board was fully implementing guidelines set by the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the distribution of the fertiliser.
"We received the guidelines from the ministry that also set the maximum limit of 40 bags of subsidised fertiliser per farmer. We are implementing the guidelines and all NCPB officers have been asked to adhere strictly to them," she said.
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