Call to cut fertiliser prices as cost of living shoots up 

Turi farm

A tractor at a farm in Turi, Nakuru county, on March 21, 2022. Some maize farmers have shifted to coffee.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Prices of food and other basics have shot through the roof in recent months.
  • Cereal farmers in the North Rift are shifting to coffee, horticulture and agroforestry.

MPs have asked for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intervention after the National Treasury withdrew Sh5.7 billion from the supplementary budget that was to cushion farmers against high fertiliser costs.

As farmers suffer, so are consumers struggling with rising cost of living, given runaway prices of essentials like cooking oil, flour, milk, fuel and gas.

The National Assembly Agriculture Committee says food security is at risk following the move by the Treasury.

The team chaired by Moiben MP Silas Tiren had factored in Sh5.7 billion in the mini-budget that is to be considered by the House on Tuesday.

It says the money was transferred to the security docket.

“Why can’t the government set aside Sh15 billion for food security?” Mr Tiren asked.

“Is someone trying to sabotage farmers? We will not approve this budget until the money for fertiliser subsidy is factored in.”

A litre of cooking oil that was going for Sh346 in February is now Sh430. It sold for Sh206 in 2020.

A 2kg packet of maize flour now retails for as much as Sh224, up from Sh145 while a 400g loaf of bread is Sh75 from Sh60.

Subsidy allocation

A 2kg packet of wheat flour is selling at Sh178 from less than Sh160 in January. A 500ml packet of milk is retailing at Sh63.

Refilling a 6kg gas cylinder now costs Sh1,650, from around Sh1,400 in December while a 13kg cylinder is Sh3,350.

Committee vice chairman and Fafi MP Abdikarim Osman blamed the high cost of fertiliser on corruption by former officials in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Asked Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga: “Why should a country buy guns to protect hungry people?”

Mr Kalasinga said the committee did all it could to include the Sh5.7 billion in the supplementary budget.

“We told the farmers that the money would be in the budget. What are we going to tell them now?” he asked.

The lawmakers said Treasury and Agriculture Ministry officials are deliberately frustrating the subsidy allocation so as to import maize.

Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Lawrence Omuhaka, who appeared before the committee yesterday, said the ministry is looking for funds to assist farmers.

“The ministry has requested the approval of the Sh5.73 billion for fertiliser subsidy. This amount will help 910,000 farmers,” Mr Omuhaka said.

High input costs

Early this month, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said farmers should bear with the high prices as he awaits a decision by the Cabinet to approve money for subsidy.

Mr Munya said the ministry needs Sh31.8 billion for the programme.

According to the ministry, a bag of DAP now sells for Sh6,000, Urea (Sh6,500), CAN (Sh3,900), NPK (Sh4,900) while MOP and AS are going for Sh3,800.

Mr Munya said DAP would retail at Sh2,800,Urea (Sh2,700), CAN (Sh1,950),NPK (Sh3,000) and MOP and AS Sh2,500 if his ministry gets the cash requested.

Returns from maize and wheat have fallen due to the high input costs and unstable market prices.

One of them is Peter Boit, a large-scale maize farmer.

“Cartels in the maize supply chain cause artificial shortages and then flood the market with cheap imports” the Uasin Gishu resident told the Daily Nation. 

Additional reporting by Barnabas Bii and Peter Mburu