Farmers cry foul as State imports Sh9b fertiliser

[Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Reports of the importation of Sh9 billion worth of fertilizer has drawn mixed reaction from farmers in North Rift.

Some farmers have questioned the timing considering cereals producers recently failed to access affordable planting and top dressing fertiliser for the production of the country's staple food - maize.

The price of planting fertiliser in the current season hit a high of over Sh6,500 while CAN for top dressing was between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000 depending on the outlets while urea was over Sh7,000 per 50 kg bag.

A section of maize farmers yesterday hit out at the Government over delays in availing subsidised fertilizers in the country. They said the shortage of fertilisers led to hiking of the prices and exploitation of producers of food by the traders who supply farm inputs in the North Rift region.

According to the farmers, the fertilisers subsidy supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture in June was not accessed by the majority of farmers, saying farmers were forced to grow their crops with insufficient inputs, a move that could compromise productivity at the end of the season later in the year. Paul Kerich, one of the maize farmers in Mosop, Nandi County accused the Government of taking maize farmers for a ride and said that failure by the State to consider the food production sector would lead to a dire shortage of maize in the coming year.

"Even after the CS for Agriculture Peter Munya promised supply of fertilizer subsidy, it has never materialized and many farmers ended up purchasing costly DAP fertilisers in the markets," he said.

He projected the dismal performance of the maize this year, claiming that the cost of production hiked up and economic constraints affected the farmers. The farmer said the announcement of imports is ill-timed and may only benefit tea farmers for top dressing. Kerich noted that most maize farmers could not top dress since there was an acute shortage of input when the crop was at an appropriate stage for top dressing.

"Current season maize is already at flowering stage and could be harvested in the next one or two months. Importation of inputs, either planting or top dressing will not benefit the current maize season. Maybe for the next season," said Kerich.

Kenya Tea Development Authority imported fertilizers for tea farmers in the country through the agriculture ministry following farmers' outcry over the scarcity of the NPK. The maize farmers pointed accusing fingers to the ministry for allegedly shortchanging maize farmers. Ezekiel Birgen, a farmer, stated that it was long overdue for the Government to distribute subsidies.

"The scarce subsidy fertilizers in the NCPB were only available to registered farmers, and this disadvantaged majority of them. The Government should remove regulations for small-scale farmers to access affordable farm inputs," appealed Mr Birgen, a maize farmer in Chesumei constituency.

Although tea farmers welcomed the importation of the fertilizers by KTDA, tea farmers in Nandi urged the government to provide subsidy fertilizers to minimize the cost of production.

"The fertilizers would be sold between Sh4,500 and Sh4,000 per 50kg which is still too high for the majority of farmers grappling with inflation, " said Peter Kemboi, a tea farmer in Aldai.

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