Calls for use of e-voucher in cheap fertiliser distribution

Subsidised feritliser

Workers offload bags of fertiliser at the National Cereals and Produce Board depot in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya I Nation Media Group

 Stakeholders in the agriculture sector want President William Ruto’s government to adopt his predecessor’s e-voucher method of distributing subsidised fertiliser to farmers.

They expressed fears that the ongoing distribution of the subsidised fertiliser is vulnerable to abuse and also threatens related businesses.

This came as Nakuru Woman Rep Liza Chelule cried that there are some officers who are demanding a title deed as proof that one is a farmer.

‘Signs of cartels’

“This is unacceptable and cannot be entertained. A title deed is not one of the documents used for identification in this country,” she said, adding, such demands are signs of cartels out to frustrate farmers.

Mr James Kimani, the Mt Kenya Central Small-Scale Farmers Union chairman, said: “We’re happy that the government has committed to helping farmers lower cost of production. But that help must be structured, well meaning, sensitive to economies of scale and with ability to post maximum results. We don’t have those ingredients so far,”

Required amount

He praised the e-voucher system that used approved agro shops to distribute subsidised inputs. Through it, all the details of a farmer were captured in advance and the farmer only needed to present it to the dealer and pay the required amount.

Mr Kimani’s sentiments were shared by the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers.

On February 3, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the new system would apply to all forms of subsidised inputs, including seeds and pesticides.

“We will no longer be storing fertiliser at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB),” he said.

The Ruto administration is currently releasing fertilisers to the counties and storing it at NCPB stores. A 50kg bag of DAP is selling at Sh3, 500, CAN at Sh2,875, Urea at Sh3,500, NPK at Sh3,275, MOP at Sh1,775 and Sulphate of Ammonia at Sh2,220.

What’s not in dispute is how NCPB will distinguish between genuine farmers and brokers.

“It is a tough call to ensure the programme retains integrity. As it is, there is no limitation, anyone can walk into NCPB, place an order, repackage and sell the fertiliser at high prices,” said an administrator in Murang’a County.

The administrator accused the government of overlooking the administration officers.

“We have the field structures to ensure farmers access this fertiliser. We have government vehicles that can transport it to the farm gate of the farmer. But because there are those who want to introduce corruption, no supervision element has been introduced,” the administrator said.

Extension officers

This may have been the fear Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago was expressing to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at the funeral of Baringo’s Deputy Governor Charles Kipngok.

“We want an arrangement where we have supervision of this subsidy programme. We need extension officers or their equivalent in the field to help us identify our farmers and their measured need. Otherwise, we might not get the desired results,” Mr Mandago said.

“The greatest fallacy in the subsidised fertiliser programme is the condition that it be accessed in 50kg bags. Most of the small-scale farmers require less than that measure of any one type of fertiliser,” Mr Kimani said.

With any farmer able to purchase as many as 100 bags, he said this was bound to be exploited by cartels.

But on Sunday, Mr Gachagua said administrators will be used to compile data on all farmers in the country by crop and acreage as well as by input needs.

Fertiliser Association of Kenya Chairman Eustace Muriuki said there needs to be thorough scrutiny of the subsidy structures, noting that the current demand for fertiliser in the country stands at between 600,000 and 650,000 tonnes annually.

“Of that consumption demand, the government through the subsidy programme provides 20 per cent to the small-scale farmers. There is need to invest in data so as to maximise benefits,” he said.