Small-scale tea farmers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy fertliser after the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) failed to procure the vital input this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They will be forced to pay the commercial price at Sh3,000 per 50kg bag, compared with Sh2,000 from the agency which imports in bulk and delivers to farmers' buying centres.
Some farmers in the Rift Valley region have entered into agreements with fertiliser manufacturers and dealers to buy the product at lower prices after KTDA refunded their money for the previous season's farm inputs.
Among the dealers they are working with is Yara Fertiliser, which is selling the product at Sh2,800 per 50kg bag.
"The tea farmers will have to purchase the fertiliser at commercial rates, which is more expensive, thus eating into their profits," said Mr Joseph Too, a farmer in Chepkumia, Nandi County.
"Some of the farmers might be forced to do without fertiliser this season due to the high cost and declining global prices of the tea," he added.
Global tea prices have fallen in the past few months, sparking protests from farmers, who have appealed to the government to introduce subsidies to enable them to continue cultivating the cash crop.
"Massive layoffs might be unavoidable to cuts production costs like pruning, weeding and picking green tea leaves," said Mr David Lang'at from Saos, Baringo County, who has started growing eucalyptus trees, which earn him more thanks to increased demand for wood and wood products.
Some of the farmers who did not get KTDA bonuses have abandoned the crop and shifted to farm forestry, horticulture and dairy farming, as alternative sources of livelihood.
Farmers in Nandi and Vihiga counties received Sh14 per kilogramme as bonus while those in Kapsara, Trans Nzoia County, were paid 11 per kilogramme, which they said was too little, with some contemplating uprooting the crop and investing in more profitable ventures.
"The drop in world tea prices is a total blow, considering that we have not recovered from the effects of the frost and hailstone, which destroyed the crop last year. It might take long before the prices pick up, subjecting us to heavy losses, unless new markets emerge," said Mr Mathew Koech,from Nandi Hills,
The farmers in Nandi County said they pay Sh8 per kilogram to tea pickers and they are deducted additional Sh5 per kilogram for construction of new tea factories.
The KTDA imported 1.91 million bags of fertiliser worth Sh3.8 billion last season for small scale farmers.
According to KTDA chairman Peter Kanyagio, most of fertiliser manufacturers in Europe have experienced challenges due to the virus crisis forcing small scale farmers to source the input from local dealers.
This comes as global fertiliser prices are expected to increase by 11 percent up from 9 percent last year due lack of raw materials.
According to World Bank fertiliser price index latest report, high energy cost and tight supplies by largest producers like China had pushed the prices beyond the reach of small scale farmers.
Environmental regulations have occasioned the increased prices of raw materials such as Sulphur and Ammonia used to manufacture fertiliser.