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Large-scale farmers ask for more as subsidised fertiliser falls short

Rebeca Mburu applies manure on her farm at Ndeffo in Njoro, Nakuru, on Tuesday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A whirlwind cuts through Rebeca Mburu’s freshly ploughed farm in Ndeffo, Njoro, in Nakuru County.

She looks up to the sky at the forming clouds, and then bends down to mix soil with manure.

“That whirlwind is a sign of rain. It is a tough year for farmers. Fertiliser prices are high and it’s hard to come by the government-subsidised one. I’m not sure if we will harvest anything this year,” she says.

Despite the government lifting the cap on the amount to be purchased from 10 to 20 bags, Ms Mburu, like many other farmers, are still feeling pinched.

While launching the distribution of subsidised fertiliser on Monday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya urged farmers to register with the  National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to benefit from the programme.

To lock out middlemen from accessing the commodity, he said only farmers captured in the database will buy.

“It is not like we have started giving subsidised fertiliser. We are just upscaling what we have been giving. Farmers should take advantage of the available cheap fertiliser,” he said.

Large-scale farmers were promised more once the government confirms availability.

Though registered small-scale farmers are content, those with large farms still have to buy the expensive fertiliser in the market.

“If I have to apply the required practice, I would need a 50kg bag of fertiliser for every acre in our 61-acre land. We only got five bags through the government programme.  We hope to get more,” says Ms Mburu.

She requires 56 bags at the price of more than Sh5,500 per bag, but since that is an expensive venture, she has opted for manure.

“I harvest at least 40 bags of maize from an acre, but this is likely to reduce to around 15 bags per acre, which is a loss,”

However, all is well for Teresia Wairimu, who owns a five-acre farm.

“I had opted for manure, but I thank God the government came to our rescue. I went to Nakuru and was offered five bags but I could not afford, so I took four. I still need one more,” she says.

NCPB is storing the fertiliser that has been imported by private dealers. Corporate Communications Officer Titus Maiyo says before the new programme, the board was selling five bags for planting and five bags at a later stage for top dressing. This limit is therefore expected to double at the two stages.

In Trans Nzoia County, farmers are urging the government to ensure a steady supply. By yesterday, 1,200 bags out of the 2,000 bags stocked at the NCPB Kitale depot had been sold.

Farmers say due to the subsidised fertiliser, which is retailing at Sh2,800 per 50kg bag, prices in the market had gone down from Sh7,000 to Sh5,000.

“We are happy that the government has heard our cries and supplied us with subsidised fertiliser. We are seeing prices drop,” said Tom Nyagechaga.

Nyagechaga was allocated 10 bags.

Joseph Ng’eno, the Kitale NCPB depot manager, says the demand is high. “We will receive more consignment soon.”