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Small scale tea farmers anxious after KTDA halts fertiliser import

Monday June 29 2020
tea

A woman picking tea. Tea growers in the Rift valley are a worried lot following the decision by KTDA to suspend the importation of fertiliser for smallholder farmers until next year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOSEPH OPENDA

Tea growers in the Rift valley are a worried lot following the decision by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to suspend the importation of fertiliser for smallholder farmers until next year.

Majority of the farmers now fear incurring huge losses as a result of the decision which they say will greatly affect their output.

Mr James Koech, a tea farmer in Kericho County, said the announcement came as a shock to most small scale farmers who were caught unprepared.

Mr Koech lamented that the farmers are the ones to suffer if tea production is negatively affected for not applying fertiliser.

AGROVETS EXPENSIVE

“Most of us had not kept aside money to purchase the fertiliser from the agrovet shops, which are somewhat expensive. KTDA seems to have forgotten that no small scale farmer has the ready money to buy the fertiliser in cash from the agrovets,” said Mr Koech.

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Another farmer, Mr Alfred Yegon, faulted the agency for not acting in time to secure fertiliser on their behalf.

According to him, KTDA ought to have found a way of saving farmers from the hustle of incurring more costs when buying the fertiliser from the agrovets.

“We have been applying fertiliser all these years and I am sure if I do not apply this year, the quality and quantity of my yield will reduce significantly. KTDA ought to have done something for us since we are the ones to suffer the most should our output be affected,” said Mr Yegon.

LITTLE PROFIT

The farmers argued that they have been getting very little profit from the crop and the decision by KTDA will mean more problems for them.

KTDA Management Services in a statement released on June 12 announced its decision to suspend the importation of fertiliser on behalf of its small holder farmers for the application during the short rains period of October and November.

The agency’s head of corporate communications, Mr Kithae Ndiga, said the importation this year has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic which makes it impossible to deliver the fertiliser in time to farmers.

Speaking to the Nation Monday, Mr Ndiga said they had sent a notice to the farmers through their buying centres explaining to them the reasons for the decision.

MINIMAL IMPACT

“We explained to them the report from the Tea Research Institute which found that the impact of skipping application for one year will be minimal. We have also advised our farmers that those who still need to apply the fertiliser can acquire it from the agrovets at market rates,” said Mr Ndiga.

But the farmers argue that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to take longer to end and this means the agency is likely to suspend importation further.

However, KTDA said the farmers will be refunded their contribution for the last seven months with their accrued interest with effect from June.

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