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Farmers decry frustration by cartels in fertiliser scheme

Sunday February 25 2018

fertilisers

National Cereals and Produce Board's Eldoret depot distributes fertilisers to farmers on February 28, 2017. Cartels are buying and re-selling the commodity at exorbitant prices. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BARNABAS BII
By BARNABAS BII
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Distribution of government subsidised fertiliser has been compromised by extortion cartels, unscrupulous middlemen and dishonest Ministry of Agriculture staff.

This has led to exclusion of many small-scale farmers from the low cost inputs.

On Sunday, smallholder cereal farmers in the North Rift region, the country’s food basket, asked the government to probe agricultural officers facilitating irregular purchase of fertiliser from National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores.

They said the fertiliser is then re-packaged and sold at exorbitant rates ahead of the next planting season.

INVESTIGATE
The subsidised fertiliser goes for Sh1,800 per 50kg bag, but it is being sold at Sh3,000 per bag at retail markets.

The top dressing fertiliser — calcium ammonium nitrate (Can) is selling at Sh1,500 per bag.

“Some agriculture officials collude with cartels that are registered as farmers and approve sale of subsidised fertiliser in large quantities to them. This is causing an artificial shortage of the input,” Mr David Kosgey from Soy, Uasin Gishu County, said.

Another farmer, Mr Wilson Rotich from Trans Nzoia County, said some traders resell the subsidised fertiliser at between Sh2,000 per 50kg bag and Sh2,500 per bag after repacking it.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago also called for investigations into the scandal.

“We are aware of the schemes by some dishonest Ministry of Agriculture officials in collusion with unscrupulous traders to deny farmers the low-cost fertiliser. They will not escape. I will deal with them ruthlessly,” he warned. 

DEMAND
The governor said his administration is working closely with the national government and security agencies to crack down on the cartels.

So far, the government has procured more than 168,000 tonnes of subsidised fertiliser, valued at Sh5 billion, to be distributed to farmers through the NCPB this planting exercise.

The board blames poor vetting of farmers by chiefs, agriculture extension officers, religious leaders and elected officials for the cartels.

According to NCPB corporate affairs manager Titus Maiyo, the board has 1.3 million bags of assorted, subsidised fertiliser.

About 500,000 bags are in North Rift stores.

The region requires about 650,000 tonnes of fertiliser yearly.

Last November, the government suspended sale of subsidised fertiliser in the North Rift for two weeks over graft. 

Immediate former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said investigations into the syndicate would be launched. Several suspects were arrested.