Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri now says his National Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich is to blame for failing to provide money to import subsidised fertiliser ahead of the planting season next month, when the long rains are expected.
The latest move leaves farmers at the mercy of local dealers, who are selling a 50kg bag of fertiliser at Sh3,500 compared with the Sh1,800 they would have paid for the government-subsidised fertiliser.
Appearing before the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee Monday, Mr Kiunjuri said his ministry’s efforts to procure 166,750 metric tonnes of the commodity began in August 2018.
In a process that included writing letters to Mr Rotich, Mr Kiunjuri told the MPs that he was instead told by the Treasury to operate within the approved budget of Sh4.3 billion.
However, the fact the ministry had pending bills to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and Export Trading Company (ETG) Limited and AGPO companies amounting to Sh8 billion made the Treasury’s proposal unworkable.
Of the Sh4.3 billion, Sh2.15 billion would be paid to these agencies and firms, with the remaining Sh2.15 billion used to procure fertilisers from AGPO firms, which is not enough.
“It is clear that the money must be loaded in the Ifmis platform before we proceed with any procurement but this has not happened. The buck stops with the Treasury,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
Going by the current developments, farmers who depend on the subsidy programme are staring at an uncertain future.
Mr Kiunjuri also said that Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki advised the ministry against plans to proceed with the existing contract with ETG as it had loopholes.
The exploitative prices of the middlemen are also likely to affect the production this year compared with 46 million bags of maize harvested in the 2018.
Recently, the chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Dr Andrew Tuimur, admitted that the government will not import subsidised fertiliser this season. Dr Tuimur said the procurement regime with ETG lapsed on January 12, 2019. “Farmers will have to purchase the inputs from certified dealers now that the planting exercise is on,” said Dr Tuimur.
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, a member of the committee, claimed that some individuals with influence in government have already imported their own fertiliser that they intend to sell to farmers at exploitative prices.
“You know, these merchants can’t sell their fertiliser if the subsidised one is in the market. They have to do everything to frustrate the government plans so that whatever they have is sold to farmers unrivalled,” Mr Arati said.