Fewer farmers access fertiliser in January as food prices expected to drop in coming months- CBK Forecast

[Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Fewer farmers were able to access the subsidised fertiliser in January 2024 compared to November 2023, a Central Bank of Kenya Agriculture Sector survey has revealed.

This decline was attributed to less cash available from banks, Saccos, family, and Hustler Fund to give credit to farmers.

The January CBK Survey, conducted during the period January 15 to January 19, 2024, notes that farmers face several barriers in accessing farm inputs, but the three most cited barriers were the high cost of farm inputs – especially fertiliser, seeds, and pesticides, lack of finance and the high cost of mechanization

“The proportion of respondents who reported to have accessed government subsidised fertiliser was lower in the January 2024 survey, reflecting seasonal patterns in line with the crop calendar for the country, as there are minimal farming activities in January,” the report reads.

In cases where farmers were unable to get the subsidised fertiliser, several reasons were given. This include lack of information on availability of the subsidised fertiliser, complications relating to the

logistics of access, and demand outstripping supply. In other instances, priority was given to farmers who were members of a farming group.

“To address the challenge of access to farm inputs, the Government has initiated a programme to issue subsidised fertiliser as well as subsidised tractors for hire at the county level,” the report reads.

According to the survey, the Government has also initiated the Hustler Fund to help credit-constrained households access credit on favourable terms, which has enabled farmers access funds to purchase inputs. 

The report says the Hustler Fund enabled 10 per cent of the sampled farmers to access credit according to results of the November 2023 survey. “However, the percentage declined in January 2024 which is mainly reflective of seasonal factors, consistent with the country’s crop calendar,” the report notes.

The survey also shows that the price of key food items could begin to fall in the coming months.

This optimism by CBK is attributed to continued favourable rainfall in January 2024, expected favourable rain conditions during the forthcoming long rain season, and the availability of quality and affordable fertilizer.

The survey mentions that retail prices of most key food items remained slightly high in January 2024 compared to December 2023, except key vegetable items such as tomatoes and onions, which recorded a price drop.

The increase in prices of non-vegetables in January 2024 was driven by select items whose prices were relatively higher reflecting seasonal factors, international developments, and elevated energy costs.

Weather conditions, transport, and input costs were mentioned as factors that continue to determine how much farmers are producing and the prices of their produce.

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