The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: North Rift Farmers Worry Over Fertiliser

Farmers in Rift Valley are worried the government's delay to import subsidised fertiliser will hurt their harvest.

The farmers have asked the government to directly import the fertiliser following a debt dispute at the National Cereals and Produce Board which has made it impossible for the board to import the Sh2 billion fertiliser.

Cereals Growers Association, Kenya Farmers Association and the Kenya National Farmers Union officials yesterday warned the delayed importation of the fertilser may delay the planting season for most farmers.

"The Agricultural Finance Corporation has already given out loans to farmers to buy farm inputs, but if they don't get the fertiliser, planting will be delayed and this may lead to farmers making losses and being unable to repay their loans," said KFA managing director Kipkorir Menjo.

He was with CGA's Sila Tiren and Musa Barno from the KNFU. The officials said the government should not wait for the NCPB to import fertiliser "because by the time they do it it may be too late."

They pleaded with the state to import the fertiliser instead and use KFA to distribute it to farmers. The NCPB is embroiled in a dispute with Erad Suppliers, which is demanding Sh500 million after it won a court case over a cancelled tender to supply maize to the board in 2004.

Auctioneers have attached the board's accounts in an effort to recover the money. A court is to rule on the matter this week. The dispute has led to delays by NCPB to import the fertiliser which it had already ordered from abroad.

NCPB managing director Gideon Misoi was yesterday unavailable for comment, while the board's spokesman Evans Wasike declined to comment on the matter.

The farmers representatives said the government should stop focusing on the elections only, "but also consider the plight of the farmers".

"The country will require food after the polls," said the farmers. The farmers are worried if the government does not not import the fertiliser in good time, middle men will hike the prices.

"We need the government to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency because it may snowball into a big crisis," said Tiren. Many farmers have already began preparing their farms for the plantings season which is expected to start mid-March.

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