29 March 2013

Kenya: Kakamega Farmers' Plea for Cheap Fertilizer

Farmers in Kakamega County have appealed to the government to hasten access to subsidized fertilizer for the planting season that is under way.

The farmers complained that the National Cereals and Produce Board stores in the area have remained empty.

A spot check by the Star indicated that NCPB stores in Kakamega, Malava, Chavakali, Butere and Hamisi have no fertilizer due to what one of the officials claimed was a dispute between NCPB and its suppliers.

"All our stores are empty and we do know if there will be an end to this impasse. Our accounts have been frozen and our property in danger of being auctioned because of a court awarded Sh. 522 million for breach of contract involving the suppliers," said one of the managers of NCPB in the region who did not want to be quoted.

President Kibaki had ordered treasury to release some sh. 3 billion for fertilizer and seeds for farmers in anticipation of the planting season but the fertilizer is yet to reach the region.

According to an official of NCPB in Kakamega County, fertilizer shortage has hit the area since December last year.

"The last batch of fertilizer we had in our stores back in November were 8, 000 bags in Kakamega, 800 bags in Chavakali, 500 bags in Malava, 800 bags in Butere and 560 bags in Hamisi.

However, since the stocks ran out we have not received any more," said the source, who is a manager at one of the NCPB stores.

Felix Akhuibasa, a farmer in Ikolomani said he had sought for fertilizer for months before finally accessing it in Webuye which is tens of kilometers from his farm's location.

"I was lucky to finally get some fertilizer for my two acre farm all the way at a store in Webuye. Transporting the input back to my farm cost me a lot, adding to the expenses I incurred this year," said Akhuibasa.

Western Provincial Director of Agriculture John Cheruiyot said he was investigating the reasons behind the shortage of the subsidized fertilizer that has hit the region.

He urged farmers who could afford to buy it from private vendors not to wait any longer because they risked missing the planting season.

"The problem in this region is affordability of DAP, which is what farmers use in their farms to plant maize. It is currently retailing at sh. 4, 000 in private stores and farmers who can afford it should just buy it and plant immediately," said Cheruiyot.

Subsidized fertilizer from the NCPB retails at sh. 2, 500 per bag, which is what most small scale farmers in the region can afford. The maize crop from the region is mostly used for subsistence as majority of farmers plant sugarcane as their income generating farming activity.

Cheruiyot said farmers who could not afford to buy the input from the private sector should move to banks, the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and other financial institution for credit in order to make their purchases.

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