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State assures farmers of ample fertilizer supplies

The Government has assured farmers of the availability of adequate and fair-priced fertilizers ahead of the upcoming planting season.

As the rains season sets in, the State has affirmed that the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) warehouses across the country have enough supply of varieties of fertilizers.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mithika Linturi said the government is committed to enhancing national food security by providing subsidized fertilizers to registered farmers through the e-voucher system.

“All the subsidized fertilizers are of high quality and are recommended for maximum crop yields. Further, the fertilizer is adequate and farmers should not panic,” he said, as he challenged farmers, to obtain the input in good time.

Mr Linturi who was accompanied by Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS), Dr Paul Rono, spoke at the NCPB depot in Nakuru, where he flagged off a consignment of fertilizers, to be delivered to all the 11 Sub-counties in Nakuru which boasts of 55 wards.

During the occasion, Linturi further inaugurated five ultra-modern grain driers at the NCPB facility, to help farmers manage their harvests and reduce post-harvest losses.

Farmers in various parts of the country have started preparing land for planting during the long rainy season. The planting season kicks-off from mid-February to early March. Until then, farmers are expected to purchase fertilizer on time for planting and top dressing.

Mr Linturi said the government will provide 7 million bags of subsidized fertilizer to farmers, in all the 1,450 wards across the country for the 2024 long and short rains seasons.

The last two years have seen the government give fertilizer subsidies to cushion farmers against the high cost of the commodity. The subsidy programme was followed by a farmer registration exercise, and the deployment of an accurate and transparent e-voucher system, for managing distribution.

The programme was launched in January last year when most farmers from the breadbasket of the country were preparing for the long rains season.

During the launch of the subsidy programme, President William Ruto, said for the first time in more than a decade, fertilizer reached farmers in time to prepare for planting.

“We delivered two million 50 kg bags to farmers. Similarly, since the onset of the long rains season in 2023, we have prepared farmers in 41 counties and delivered to them 3,536,162 bags of crop-specific and region-specific fertilizers. In the process, more than five million farmers were issued with 3,628,512 e-vouchers and last-mile distribution centres were established,” he said.

Mr Linturi indicated that for the first time in the country’s history, the State was providing farmers with fertilizer, whose formulation is customized to feed crops with their specific requirement of elements and address local soil nutrient composition.

In November 2023, President Ruto approved the Supplementary Budget of Sh8.25 billion, for the fertilizer subsidy.

The move was expected to increase farm productivity and improve food security in the country.

In 2022, President Ruto directed that subsidized fertilizer be given only to registered farmers through e-wallet arrangements.

“Fertilizers have been identified as a key input to be subsidized by the government in line with the Kenya Kwanza government manifesto,” he said.

The Government had committed 388,000 metric tonnes of various fertilizers for the 2023 long rains.

Twelve counties in North and South Rift among them, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru, Kericho, Bomet, Narok and West Pokot were selected to pilot the first phase of the subsidy programme.

Mr Linturi disclosed that last year 61 million bags of maize, were harvested in the country, adding that the government had put in place policy measures, to transform the country into a net exporter of food as a way of improving its foreign exchange reserves.

He affirmed that only registered farmers will benefit from the subsidy programme.

The registration exercise is meant to enhance traceability, accountability and transparency in the implementation of the fertilizer subsidy programme.

Linturi said the maize drying equipment is significant in realizing the government’s vision of improving grain value chains and achieving 100 per cent food and nutrition security.

“I wish to reaffirm the commitment of the government to support the farming community in post-harvest management,” he said.

The CS expressed confidence that the initiative will help address the challenges that affect farmers’ output, noting that inadequate drying facilities contribute to huge farm losses and consequently food insecurity.

“Despite the crucial role the sector plays in our country, post-harvest loss management has been a major challenge in the sector with an estimated loss of 40 percent of harvested crops,” he stated.

According to the Ministry, agriculture contributes more than 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and provides 70 per cent of employment to rural dwellers.

The Principal Secretary, State Department for Agriculture, Dr Rono, stated that the Kenya Kwanza Administration was committed to making farming a profitable venture, enhancing production to boost food security.

Dr Rono said the challenge of food security would be won if Kenyans work with the government.

He said the Kenya Kwanza government is committed to supporting farmers to improve production through affordable farm inputs and reduced fertilizer prices.

The PS asked Kenyans to join the journey and be patient, as the government institutes measures to address the costs of food.

“Kenya is moving towards food security and I am asking citizens to join us to realize the food-sufficient agenda. I will do my best to partner with devolved units and support farmers’ access affordable farm inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer,” said Dr Rono.

Dr Rono said food insecurity is a recipe for crime, adding that the government’s agenda is to ensure the availability of enough food to feed the entire population.

He explained that it is in the government’s programme, to make agriculture a low-cost venture, to boost food production and reduce food prices.

PS said the National and County governments, will partner to facilitate training of farmers and equip them with useful technologies to enhance food production.

“When farmers are well equipped, there are high chances for them to increase earnings and production,” he added.

He also said the government will work with counties to establish county food reserves to tame post-harvest losses.

“The significance of the agriculture sector to our economy cannot be overstated. The sector contributes 25 per cent directly to the GDP and another 27 per cent indirectly through support to other sectors like manufacturing among others,” he said.

To complement the programmes, the government has also put up a Warehouse Receipt System which allows farmers to hold their produce in certified NCPB Depot warehouses.

Dr Ruto said this will ensure accountability and efficiency as the produce can be tested, cleaned, graded and stored with the owners of the commodity receiving a receipt as proof of ownership before sale.

“The receipt system is backed by legal provisions that guarantee quality, provide a secure system whereby stored agricultural products can serve as collateral, be sold, traded or used for delivery against financial instruments,” said PS Rono.

By Anne Mwale

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