As planting season nears, maize farmers staring at fertiliser crisis

As the clock starts ticking towards the start of the planting season in a few weeks, maize farmers are once again staring at a potential fertiliser crisis, all because of government inefficiencies.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri says the government cannot guarantee timely delivery of subsidised fertiliser due to procurement challenges, details of which he has not disclosed.

If the subsidised fertiliser does not arrive on time, farmers will be left with no choice but to buy the input at market prices, which are significantly high, which will in turn raise the cost of maize production.

For poor farmers, and those who are yet to sell their harvests due to low prices, the cost of fertiliser will be out of their reach. In addition, delayed deliveries could also mean that farmers push forward the time when they start planting, leading to poor crop performance. A shortage of maize would likely force the government to resort to importation, as has happened in the past – an outcome that is neither desirable for the government nor for the farmers.

It is thus disappointing that the Ministry of Agriculture cannot meet its obligation to the farmers, who are already hurting from an inadequate market and low pricing of last season’s crop.

Ministry officials ought to have anticipated the likely delay in the procurement of the fertiliser, given that this has been a perennial challenge. They could also borrow a leaf from institutions that have learnt how to ensure that fertiliser reaches their farmers in the right quantities and on time.

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The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture should do more than tell farmers to be prepared for anything. There is no point in waiting for a crisis to happen when he could have ensured that ministry officials charged with responsibility acted proactively. Besides, with the State keen on ensuring food security — as a key pillar of development — it must be able to promptly address the challenges facing farmers.

CREDIT: Business Daily

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