Maize growers demand quality fertiliser

A farmer applies a concoction of ashes and herbs to a maize plantation to counter armyworms. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The country's maize production is under threat due to lack of quality fertiliser, amid calls for the use of bio-organic fertiliser to cushion growers from the high cost of the commercial product.

There is growing discontent among maize growers in the North Rift region over the quality of subsidized fertiliser supplied by the national government for the planting season.

The growers claim that the quality of fertilizer available at National Cereals and Produce Board depots is of low quality and cannot help in the multiplication of the seed.

During a recent meeting in Kitale, they demanded that the government supplies them with certified and high-quality fertiliser for seed production.

For the past five years, the growers have been using Yara fertilizer, which they said gave them better yield.

The more than 250 maize producers contracted by Kenya Seed Company were last year supplied with Yara power for planting and Yara Amidas for top dressing at a cost of Sh4,050.

The government has already procured NPK planting fertilizer to be supplied to farmers with 2,880 and it was delivered to Kitale NCPB depot two weeks ago.

During the meeting, the farmers warned that the seed production is at risk in the event they are forced to buy appropriate seed multiplication fertiliser retailing at over Sh 6,000 per bag.

Last season, the growers got a high yield with each farmer producing 2,000 kilos per acre.

"The NAP fertilizer supplied by the government is inferior for seed maize production, and we fear we will not get better yield," claimed Patrick Kisiero during a one-day training on seed production at Kitale Club.

Kiseiro argued that the decision by the government to provide NAP fertiliser would disadvantage the seed production in the country.

Maryanne Nafula, another grower, asked the government to consider supplying them with their choice fertilizer for the planting season.

“The cost of production is very high, and we do not want to gamble with our farming. Let the government give us the right fertiliser for seed production because this is a very delicate venture and needs a proper and accurate choice of farm inputs,” said Nafula.

Trans Nzoia maize growers’ chairman, Antony Barasa, disclosed that many farmers quit seed production due to the high cost of production.

Barasa urged the government to support growers with subsidized farm inputs to cushion them from high production cost.

“We are about 250 contracted seed maize farmers, as many of our colleagues have quit the business. Let the government support us with the right fertiliser for assurance of good production,” he said.

Experts rooted for the use of bio-organic fertilisers to cushion farmers from the high cost of commercial fertilisers.

The experts argued that bioorganic fertilisers, besides tackling the cost implication of farm inputs, were a solution to food security and climate change.

"The bio-organic fertilisers are currently the subject of discussion in the carbon sink programme as a climate mitigation strategy. The use of the technology address also the challenges of the plant and soil," argued an agriculturalist, Issac Ngeiywa.

The experts argued that reduced use of commercial fertilisers and complementing them with biological materials would be the most sustainable mitigation approach to the impact of climate change.

"The main objective of a farmer is to have improved production, and this production will become a reality by having a sustainable bio-organic fertiliser application to keep to soil health and enhanced yields," said Ngeiywa.

The importance of biofertilizer is that it attracts carbon from the air and produces elements that promote plant growth.

Ancient Bioorganic Limited is one of the firms producing biological fertilisers branded as Bio-Prop FHB  formula one.

The firm operates in seven African countries and offers a solution to the high cost of commercial fertilisers and the impact of climate change.

An official of the firm told The Standard that they are considering a partnership with county governments to provide bio-organic fertilisers to farmers alongside existing fertiliser programmes. 

Kenya Seed Company Acting Managing Director Sammy Chepsiror, urged the government to increase the buying price for seed maize to boost farmers' returns.

Growers want the government to increase the buying price to Sh120 per kilo.

"The Sh88 per kilo of seed maize paid to us is inadequate. We want the government to pay Sh120 to enable us make profit and pay our loans," said Barasa.

The farmers decried the circulation of fake seeds in the market, which hampers their venture.

"We call on the government to enhance surveillance to ensure no distribution of fake seeds, which they said is a great threat to food security," said Barasa.