Reprieve to farmers as State revises cheap fertiliser limit
It is another sigh of relief, especially for the large-scale farmers after the government increased the limit of subsidised fertilisers to 20 bags per farmer from 10 bags announced earlier.
Ministry of Agriculture had last Friday capped subsidised fertiliser to 10 bags per farmer, citing urgency to minimise possible stock-out occasioned by panic buying by large-scale farmers as planting season picks up.
The government injected 5.7 billion to subsidise fertiliser prices that had hit a record high of Sh6,000 per bag by last week, the highest since 2008. The money will be used to subsidise 111,000 tonnes of fertilisers for farmers growing food crops, estimated to cover about 1.13 million acres.
“The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Co-operatives, sees the need to expand our fertiliser subsidies to farmers for their food crops production towards assured food security in the country,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said in a statement.
Under the subsidy, retail prices are now more than 50 per cent cheaper. Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), the commonly used planting fertiliser, will now retail at Sh2,800 per 50kg, down from 6,000kg.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) is set at Sh3,000 while Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) will cost Sh1,950, down from Sh4,900 and Sh3,900, respectively. To ensure efficient delivery and control mechanism, the subsidised fertilisers will be available at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores countrywide from today.
The government stopped provision of fertiliser subsidies through NCPB three years back and instead introduced an e-voucher programme that mainly targetted small-scale farmers.
Fertiliser for maize farmers was excluded in the current supplementary budget while coffee and tea received Sh1 billion each, with sugar getting Sh1.5 billion.
The ministry attributed the global spikes in fertiliser prices to huge consumption by big economies like the United States which forced producing countries such as China, Russia and Turkey to protect their farmers by restricting export.
“This increased buying of fertiliser has also led to competition for shipping thus increasing the rates for bulk and container cargo to high levels,” Munya noted. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has further dampened the global fertiliser industry.
In the last 12 months, fertiliser prices have risen to levels that has affected the agricultural sector which contribute 100 per cent food and nutrition security and about 40 per cent overall workforce.
Agriculture sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has been on a contracting trend in the last three quarters of 2021 as the government slashed intervention programs amid pandemic.
Animal feed security
Reinstatement of the subsidy programme is also part of a raft of measures by the government meant to ensure both human food and animal feed security in the country.
There has been uproar that the high cost of farm input and restriction of yellow maize importation was triggering rife competition between animal feed and human food manufactures over white maize that is already in short supply.
In late March, the ministry changed its GMO policy thus permitting animal feed manufacturers to import yellow maize with minimal GMO level in a bid to minimise human-animal food competition and tame surging costs of commodities used to raise farm animals.