Farmers in Mt Kenya are yet to receive coffee fertiliser despite the onset of the short rains, thanks to logistical blunders by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
The distribution of the fertiliser was supposed to have begun at the beginning of the month as farmers prepared for the short rains, but a source at the Ministry of Agriculture told the Nation that it is still at the depot and that distribution will begin soon.
According to NCPB Corporate Affairs Manager Kiprop Maiyo, there is a problem transporting fertiliser from Thika to Nyeri, a 100km distance that takes about one and a half hours.
“Movement is ongoing although it is quite slow. It is picking up so I would like to encourage farmers to be patient as we work on the logistics,” he said when contacted.
Central Regional Manager Simon Nguturi said the contractors are not delivering the fertiliser on time, resulting in delays.
Farmers in Nyeri County, which has been chosen to pilot coffee reforms, will have to wait longer for the subsidised fertiliser.
Consequently, they are paying more for the commodity, despite the government investing millions of shillings in farm inputs.
“We should be having the fertiliser by now,” Mr Joseph Mukuha, a farmer, said.
They have accused the government of being insincere in its calls to revitalise the sector following perennial delays in the distribution of farm inputs.
Smallholder farmers who usually expect to benefit from government subsidies have been forced to buy what they need from the market instead of getting it from their cooperative societies.
For instance, during the long rains last season, cooperative societies in Gikanda, Othaya, Rumukia and Tekangu coffee bought fertilisers at market prices.
Gikanda Coffee Society, which asked for 1,200 bags through the department of Agriculture, resorted to buying at market prices after receiving inadequate supplies.
“We received only 500 bags and bought the rest at Sh2,950, while the subsidised one was going for Sh1,500 per bag,” the society’s Secretary Mukuha Ciera said.
Last month, Nyeri County asked for 38,000 bags from the Ministry of Agriculture but has so far received only 10 percent.
“We have requested for fertilisers ahead of the short rains but by Friday we had received 1,680 bags. But we are still following up with the ministry to ensure that we get them on time,” County Agriculture Executive Henry Kinyua said.
The fertiliser is stored at the NCPB depot in Kiganjo.
At the same time, Cooperatives Principal Secretary Susan Mochache tasked a team to audit the management of the 27 coffee factories in the county.
“The first phase was preliminary data collection while now we will be seeking to ensure farmers get value for their hard work by identifying interventions needed for the industry to thrive,” she said.