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Subsidised fertiliser is too costly, Trans Nzoia farmers tell State

Rift Valley
 Maize farmers harvesting their crops at a farm in Trans Nzoia County. [Osinde Obare, Standard]

Farmers in Trans Nzoia county have lamented over the increased prices of government-subsidized fertilizers from the Sh3,500 earlier pledged by President William Ruto, to Sh4,050 for a 50-kilogramme bag.

In the run-up to the General Election, Dr Ruto, lured voters to back his presidential bid with pledges that he would lower the cost of farm inputs and reaffirmed this in his maiden address as the Head of State.

But just a few weeks since farmers began to receive the fertilizer from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) silos, it has emerged that the prices have been increased by at least Sh500 per bag.

A payment receipt for the Yara Power fertilizer paid by a farmer to the NCPB, which was seen by The Standard, revealed that the price of a 50-kilogramme bag retailed at Sh4,050.

Samuel Ruto, a maize farmer from Kwanza sub-county, said he had been camping at the Kitale NCPB deports awaiting the supply for two weeks in vain.

"I am surprised that despite the long wait, there was only NPK, Kaino and Yara Power, of which we have been informed of price changes from Sh3,500 to Sh4,050. We wonder what occasioned this and hence, appeal to the president to listen to the pleas by farmers," Ruto said.

Ruto said miscommunication on the fertilizer prices puts farmers at crossroads with the government.

He added that the cost of production was still too high for the farmer, something that still puts national food security at threat.

"I have paid for six bags of fertilizers after waiting for about two weeks. We are being told that the transaction fee is Sh486. If I sum up the cost, I find it more expensive than obtaining the same from private retailers," he added.

The farmer also took issue with the supplied variety, instead calling for the provision of a blended variety dubbed Micro, which he observed to be alkaline and helps reduce the soil acidity.

Another farmer, Nelson Koskei from Naisambu area in Cherang'any constituency, also decried that the only available variety at the NCPB depots were Yara Power and Kaino, yet the government had promised all varieties would be available.

He wondered why there was no official communication from the government over price changes, adding that farmers had already budgeted for their planting expenses. 

Koskei challenged Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi to inspect the fertilizer distribution exercise to get rid of brokers and instil confidence in the buyers.

"The ministry should move round just like their education counterparts visit schools during examinations period to control irregularities, and by doing this, they will help reduce malpractices," said Koskei.

He added that they are being forced to take fertilizer varieties that they don't need since the ones they ordered for is out of stock.

Koskei, who had applied for 90 bags of fertilizers, wants the Yara Microp variety and said he would wait a little bit longer for the variety that has been out of stock for weeks now.

With the increased pricing, Koskei said he would either be forced to add at least Sh9,000 more to his planned budget or reduce the number of bags.

His sentiments were echoed by a farmer from Kiminini ward in Kwanza constituency, Paul Mwangi, who said he paid Sh3,500 for the fertilizer, but upon collection, he was informed the price had increased.  

"I had planned to spend Sh3,500. I was shocked when I learnt the price had increased. I was forced to reduce the number of bags," he said.

He further noted that varieties such as NPK, available at the depots, were unpopular in the region.

" The fertilizer has low productivity levels. We have no choice but to buy them," he said. 

Fredrick Rono, a large-scale maize farmer from Cherangany, termed the new pricing as a contravention of the government's pledge.

Efforts to reach the NCPB Kitale depot manager, Mr Peter Obuba, to comment on the matter did not bear fruits by the time of going to press.  

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