State pays fertiliser suppliers Sh3bn to end biting shortage

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi addresses senators at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi yesterday. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Farmers across the country will now access top dressing fertiliser after the government released Sh3 billion to suppliers to avert any prolonged shortage of the commodity.

Furthermore, the government has announced a Sh6 billion bailout to coffee farmers across the country as part of wide-ranging reforms in the agricultural sector.

Appearing before the Senate yesterday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika said there has been a shortage of top dressing fertiliser occasioned by a lack of funds resulting in non-payment of the suppliers. He said the National Treasury has released Sh3 billion to pay them and the farm input are expected to hit the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) silos by the end of the week. The CS was responding to a question from Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who wanted the government to assure farmers they will be provided with top dressing fertilisers.

On coffee, Mr Linturi said his ministry alongside that of Cooperatives has prepared a Cabinet memo seeking approval to waive Sh6 billion in debt owed by farmers across the country.

Debt write-off

President William Ruto had during a visit to the United States told Kenyans living there that, upon his return to Nairobi, he would lead the Cabinet in approving the debt write-off as part of a broader scheme to revamp the sector.

Nominated Senator Veronica Maina had asked Mr Linturi to confirm whether there were funds allocated in the 2024-2025 budget to pay the debts owed by coffee farmers the same way it was done for sugarcane growers.

Kirinyaga Senator James Murango wanted to know measures the government was taking to ensure Kenya's coffee and its products comply with the requirements of the European Union Deforestation Regulations.

In response, the CS said the Agriculture and Food Authority will establish and operationalise a high-tech data centre for receiving and transmitting information on production, produce coffee digital maps and establish a coffee database that will not only address the European Union market demands but enhance management of the coffee sub-sector in Kenya.

On tea, Mr Linturi said his ministry has embarked on several initiatives including promoting value addition and diversification into specialty teas and orthodox manufacture to make the sub-sector globally competitive.

Expanding market base

He explained the focus was on growing value-added tea exports, expanding the market base and product diversification into Orthodox manufacture, green tea, purple and tea extracts.

He said the Tea Board of Kenya is targeting 13 priority markets in North America (USA and Canada); Europe (Germany and Poland); Asia (Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Japan and China) and Africa (South Africa, Ghana). The CS said tea earned the country Sh196 billion with Sh180 billion from exports and Sh16 billion in local sales.

He said President Ruto challenged tea industry value chain players to ensure Kenyan tea is branded to increase its visibility in the global market.

At the same time, he said the government would set aside Sh500 million for livestock farmers to restock their animals lost during drought that hit the country in recent years. The amount will also be used to settle farmers who lost their animals in the raging floods that have affected various parts of the country.