Cheap fertiliser shortage hits farmers in North Rift

Workers unload bags of subsidised fertiliser from a truck at the National Cereals and Produce Board depot in Elburgon, Nakuru County on February 9, 2024.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Shortage of fertiliser has hit most parts of the North Rift region as grain farmers rush to make purchases for the upcoming planting season.

The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) admitted that the demand for the input is outstripping supply.

“We have so far distributed 378,000 bags of fertiliser for the long season planting exercise but there is high demand for the farm input, especially in the maize growing zones of the North Rift region,” said Mr Titus Maiyo, NCPB’s corporate affairs manager.

According to latest data from the Ministry of Agriculture, 5.533 million farmers are registered for the government’s subsidised fertiliser programme. Some 313,959 bags of fertiliser have so far been redeemed for the upcoming planting season.

“Some 418,267 bags of fertiliser valued at Sh790 million are at NCPB and Kenya National Trading Corporation warehouses,” states the report.

“About, 314,000 bags have been redeemed in 23 counties,” states the report. Some 69,333 unique farmers have redeemed the fertiliser.

“It is only 4,000 out of the 10,000 registered farmers in the North Rift region who have received the government subsidised fertiliser,” said Mr Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association director.

The fertiliser is going at Sh2,500 per bag, while retailers in most parts of the North Rift region are selling planting fertiliser at more than Sh6,200 per bag.

According to Agriculture Principal Secretary Kiprono Rono, the government has arranged to procure about 7.5 million bags of fertiliser for the long rains planting season. More than 16,000 dealers have been recruited to ensure the fertiliser is distributed close to farmers.

“We target to harvest at least 63 million bags of maize. We believe fertiliser is a crucial input for good harvest. We request our farmers to return to the farms and retrieve the fertiliser through the e-voucher system and ensure that they utilise it well,” said the PS.

The NCPB has invited bids for the distribution of 175,000 tonnes of assorted fertiliser across the 47 counties.

The country requires about 650,000 tonnes of fertiliser annually but some farmers plant without applying it due to high prices.

The rush by maize farmers to sell their produce to buy farm inputs, including fertiliser and seed, has pushed down prices to Sh3,800 for a 90-kilogramme bag, down from Sh4,200 two months ago.

Some farmers are reluctant to sell their produce to NCPB due to stringent conditions despite being offered Sh4,000 per 90-kilogramme bag and are instead selling to traders and millers who are buying at Sh3,800.

Farmers in the North Rift region have been discouraged from using di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser for planting to help reduce soil acidity and increase crop yield.

A report by National Accelerated Agriculture Input Access and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation discouraged application of DAP in Uasin Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Nandi and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.

The average soil acidity level in the region was found to range between 5 and 7, with farmers urged to apply compost/animal manure.

“There are other fertilisers, like NPK 23:23, which are suitable for planting of crops in the region unlike the DAP variety,” said Ezekiel Koech, an Eldoret-based agronomist.