Pact between KNTC and OCP Kenya heralds new era in fertiliser supply

Uasin Gishu farmer Raymond Kibor, in his maize farm in Soy. The farmer says he expects a bumper harvest from the farm this season after applying DAP fertiliser he acquired through the programme implemented by the partnership between KNTC and OCP Kenya. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • For a long time, farmers, especially the smallholders, had been exploited by middlemen and unscrupulous dealers, some of whom had hijacked the government subsidised fertiliser programme to profit at the expense of producers.
  • Thanks to the partnership, farmers will buy fertiliser at a fixed price of Ksh2,300 across the country for a 50kg bag, down from between Ksh2,800 and Ksh3,200.
  • The government is working on an e-voucher system of fertiliser purchase, which will be much more efficient and transparent. It will be rolled out soon.
  • OCP focuses on sustainable development of agriculture through partnerships with like-minded local value chain actors.

The Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has entered into a partnership with OCP Kenya to boost fertiliser access and affordability for farmers.

The partnership will ensure farmers get the input not only at the correct price but also at the right time.

KNTC is a government institution with the mandate to promote affordable products and support wholesale and retail trade in the country through partnerships with sector stakeholders.

Its work also includes stabilising consumer commodity prices by ensuring balance in supply and demand through availability of products.

In March 2020 during his visit to Eldoret ASK show, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya announced a new initiative between the government and fertiliser manufacturers. The deal, he said, would benefit smallholder farmers given that the subsidised fertilisers could not be provided for the season.

For a long time, farmers, especially the smallholders, had been exploited by middlemen and unscrupulous dealers, some of whom had hijacked the government subsidised fertiliser programme to profit at the expense of producers.

The government had to intervene to correct the situation and help farmers to benefit and be safe from exploitation.

“Through our partnership with OCP Kenya, smallholder farmers have been able to affordably access the commodity, which is a laudable effort. As we all know, with sufficient fertiliser provision, there will be good productivity,” says KNTC Ag Managing Director Timothy Mirugi.

The corporation has a number of warehouses across the country, making it easier for farmers to access the input.

“When the government stopped the subsidised fertiliser programme, it sought partnerships with the private sector. This led to this initiative. OCP Kenya, as a representative of the manufacturer (OCP Group of Morocco) will be importing the fertiliser while our mandate will be to ensure farmers access it in a transparent manner, eliminating those who profited unfairly from the previous scheme by fraudulently selling the commodity after repackaging and distributing it on the basis of how well the recipients and officials knew each other,” says Mr Mirugi.

Thanks to the partnership, farmers will buy fertiliser at a fixed price of Ksh2,300 across the country for a 50kg bag, down from between Ksh2,800 and Ksh3,200.

“We shall be supplying both DAP and top-dressing fertilisers depending on the season,” Mirugi says. “Currently, we have supplied more than 60,000 bags of fertiliser for planting to farmers in the breadbasket counties of Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Trans Nzoia among others whose planting season commenced early, between March and April.

Other counties will be accessing the fertiliser as their planting times reach. Farmers can access the commodity from our different facilities across counties.”

The focus is on small-scale farmers and those who were eligible for the now defunct subsidy fertiliser.

“Large-scale farmers can also benefit from the programme since there is adequate provision of the fertiliser. Through the partnership, we expect to churn out approximately 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes of both DAP and top-dressing fertilisers each season,” Mirugi explains.

He says the government is working on an e-voucher system of fertiliser purchase, which will be much more efficient and transparent. It will be rolled out soon.

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OCP Kenya manager explains mission to support farmers

Fertiliser maker OCP Group and Kenya National Trading Corporation Ltd have joined hands to improve fertiliser access to smallholder farmers in the country. Dan Okumu, the OCP Kenya Country Manager, explains the initiative

Tell us more about OCP Group

OCP Group is a Moroccan state corporation with the world’s largest phosphate reserves (estimated at 70 percent). We are engaged in the extraction, marketing and sale of phosphate and its derivatives, fertilisers and phosphoric acid, with more than 100 years of experience.

We supply to more than 80 countries globally with different fertiliser formulas, based on the soils and crop nutrients requirements.

What does the partnership between OCP Kenya and KNTC entail and how are farmers going to benefit?

The collaboration is informed by OCP Africa’s mission of availing suitable and affordable fertilisers to farmers, specifically smallholders who play a significant role in food production.

Therefore, OCP focuses on sustainable development of agriculture through partnerships with like-minded local value chain actors.

The direct dealing with KNTC has resulted in the 50Kg bag of DAP fertiliser being available at KNTC outlets at Ksh2,300 for the current planting season.

In Kenya, OCP Group has invested in mobile soil testing laboratories, which have been deployed to various counties for soil analysis, hence providing education to farmers on soil health and fertiliser requirements to improve yields.

Some 85,000 farmers have benefited from the programme, which includes training on good agricultural practices through demos and interaction between the company’s agronomists and farmers.

The planting season is here. Do we have enough fertiliser in the country?

Yes, there is adequate basal or planting fertiliser in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture engaged all the importers through the Fertiliser Association of Kenya and clarified the position on subsidies.

Thus, all importers made necessary arrangements to bring in the commodity. The annual application of DAP for planting is around 250,000 metric tonnes, with 70 percent of it being applied during the long rains season, that is, 175,000 metric tonnes.

The DAP imported between January and April 2020 is 152,000 metric tonnes, while 34,350 arrived in November 2019. This brings the total to 186,350 metric tonnes.

For top dressing, over 80,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser has already been imported, with more shipment expected this month.

What does your soil testing programme involve?

OCP Kenya provides soil testing as well as training on good agricultural practices pro bono as part of contribution to development of sustainable agriculture in Kenya and to help transition smallholders from subsistence to commercial farming.
In March, the Agriculture CS Peter Munya suspended the subsidised fertiliser programme. What does this mean to the private sector, which had complained that the initiative was distorting the market?

The issue of market distortion is expected to be resolved in the new programme, which shall be more effective by targeting bona fide smallholder farmers.

It includes various farm inputs and covers a wide range of crops. All players will have an opportunity to participate by supplying the registered agro-dealers with inputs.

What should farmers expect from your firm in the short and medium term?

In the short term, we shall continue to ensure smallholder farmers get fertilisers at affordable prices through partnerships with various agencies with similar objectives.

The initiative has been very effective in Eldoret, Kitale and Nakuru through KNTC. We intend to scale up in the coming seasons and possibly include more agencies so that more farmers may benefit.

OCP Group currently manufactures and supplies more than 100 fertiliser formulas globally, but for customised products, the volumes for Kenya may not be enough for minimum manufacture quantity.

This shall necessitate OCP getting into strategic partnerships to supply local blenders with the filler product, and they consequently add the specific micronutrients (as per crop/soil) for customisation.

This approach should effectively address the yield deficits currently experienced by farmers.

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Farmers' experiences on using OCP fertiliser

Raymond Kibor whistles as he checks out his maize plants on their expansive farm in Kabenes in Soy, Uasin Gishu County. The 34-year-old farmer is clearly excited.

He explains that he is anticipating a bumper harvest this season and that’s because he changed the fertiliser he uses and the rains have been good this season.

Kibor, who started farming in 2016 upon completion of secondary education, says that the new fertiliser made his crops germinate faster and at a good rate, yet the cost was affordable.

He is contented that the new fertiliser promised by the CS for Agriculture in Eldoret in March became a reality. He purchased a 50Kg bag of DAP at Ksh2,300 from the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) depot, instead of the Ksh2,650 that other suppliers were charging.

“So far, I don’t regret using OCP DAP fertiliser. I was using other brands in the market, but the germination rate was about 70 to 80 percent. This time I attained a germination rate of 95 percent, thanks to the OCP fertiliser,” says Kibor. He grows maize on part of his family’s 60 acres.

“It takes between seven and 10 days for the crops to germinate after dry planting (with OCP fertiliser). This is compared to 15 days it would take a crop to sprout when we use other fertilisers,” he adds.

Another happy farmer

Wilson Tarus, 50, is another happy farmer. His maize crops are doing well, having also applied OCP’s DAP fertiliser on his farm at Kaprobu.

Tarus has been planting wheat for the last 30 years, slowly increasing the size of acreage to the current 200 acres.

In the past years, he had suffered reduced yields, and he believes it was due to poor quality of fertiliser on the market in addition to unpredictable weather patterns.

“I used to get barely 10 bags of maize per acre, but I am currently expecting 30 to 40 bags this season, looking at how the crop has performed,” he says. He hopes KNTC will continue selling the OCP fertiliser at affordable prices.

Bernard Kemei, an agronomist at OCP, offers a hint as to why the company’s DAP fertiliser guarantees higher yields.

Through the 4Rs concept; that is “Right Fertiliser, Right Price, Right Rate and Right Time”, the fertiliser ensures that a farmer improves his productivity.

Kemei advises that it is important for a farmer to conduct soil testing to understand what nutrients are lacking in the soils before buying any fertiliser.

“DAP is a good fertiliser if a farmer does soil testing and understands the soil health. If it is acidic, you correct by using lime and organic matter before applying fertiliser,” he advises.

-Stanley Kimuge

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