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N. Rift farmers demand subsidised fertiliser after traders increase price

Tuesday January 29 2019

farmers

A farmers gets fertiliser from the National Cereals and Produce Board Eldoret depot. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BARNABAS BII
By BARNABAS BII
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ONYANGO K’ONYANGO
By ONYANGO K’ONYANGO
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Traders in the North Rift have increased the price of fertiliser, citing shortages.

The decision by the government to suspend the procurement of 150,000 tonnes of subsidised fertiliser over irregularities in tendering has been blamed for the low supply.

A bag of fertiliser now goes for Sh3,200 instead of Sh3,000 as farmers prepare their lands for the next planting season.

The subsidised fertiliser goes for Sh1,800 but the government is yet to import the input.

Farmers interviewed said they were yet to be vetted and given permission to supply maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board. That means they may not get their money in time to buy the fertiliser.

“We might plant our maize without fertiliser,” said Mr David Mutai, from Ziwa in Uasin Gishu County.

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri recently hinted that farmers could get the input from private dealers this season “because the subsidised fertiliser might arrive late”.

Maize growers urged the government to give the Kenya Farmers Association more money so it could buy fertiliser.

“Farmers and KFA face a lot of challenges in their efforts to increase maize production,” said Ms Mary Jeptoo, from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu County.

In an advisory to the ministry, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki said there are discrepancies in procurement and that could lead to the loss of billions of shillings.

SH4.3 BILLION

“We advise the ministry to consider alternative options to get the required fertiliser in accordance with the law,” Mr Kihara said.

The government wanted to procure the fertiliser through M/S Export Trading Company Ltd, whose two-year contract ended on January 11. The AG has pointed out loopholes in the tender.

The country requires about 650,000 tonnes of fertiliser every year but some farmers have to plant their maize without using the input as it is beyond their reach.

KFA director Kipkorir Menjo said the organisation faces numerous challenges, making it difficult to import fertiliser and sell it to farmers at a subsidised fee.

North Rift leaders now want President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the Sh4.3 billion set aside for the importation of the fertiliser be used to buy it from local operators.

Ainabkoi MP William Chepkuto yesterday said the money should be used to get the fertiliser so that it can be sold to farmers at Sh1,800 a bag.

“The government should do so quickly if farmers are to realise good harvests,” Mr Chepkuto said.

Small-scale farmers want the distribution strategy reviewed, saying they do not benefit from the subsidised fertiliser.

“Rogue Ministry of Agriculture officials collude with cartels by registering as farmers and approving subsidised fertiliser in large quantities, causing artificial shortages,” said Mr David Kosgey, from Soy, Uasin Gishu County. 

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