Private companies package own fertilizers to stem shortfall

Private agricultural companies are now delving into the distribution of fertilizers to Kenya farmers to stem biting shortage and uncoordinated distribution channels that have opened a tirade of effects fanning Kenya’s hunger cycle.

Fertilizer distribution has traditionally been done by government. But Kenya’s distribution chain has been bereft with delayed and inconsistent supply, exorbitant and exploitative prices and uncoordinated supply chain. A government subsidy programme meant to correct this has only complicated matters. Farmers who were meant to access the fertilizers in time at a reduced price to motivate them to grow more have never known peace with the subsidy. The delay in accessing the fertilizers by the farmers has meant late planting which ultimately takes a toll on yields, further aggravating the food security situation in the country. Unscrupulous middlemen, keen on exploiting the farmers, also buy the fertilizer at the subsidized price and repackage it selling it at a higher price.

This even as statistics show Kenya, and in extension Africa, lags behind in fertilizer use, which explains low productivity in the fields.  Kenya‘s average fertilizer application rate is 13 kilograms per hectare compared with an average of 94 kilograms per hectare in other developing countries.  This even as it emerges that low soil fertility and poor use of fertilizers is the key source of depressed yields in the country.
A report by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) for example shows Western, Central, parts of Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces have 7.5 million Hectares of land which are highly acidic. This is occasioned by leaching of nutrients during heavy rains, continuous cultivation and miss-application of fertilizers which offset acid compounds.

Bridgenet Africa another research body, places delayed fertilizer distribution to farmers as among the causes of the 2009 drought that placed over 10 million Kenyans under food relief and led the then President Mwai Kibaki to declare it a national disaster. In a shocking revelation recently farmers in the country's food baskets said they have never seen or come across any subsidized fertilizer and infact had decided to buy their own following multiple delays in planting as they waited for the government subsidy. The subsidy has never benefitted the very same people it set out to benefit the small holder farmers.

Agro input company Elgon Kenya Limited has now started packaging and distributing the fertilizer. Under the brand name Elgon Thabiti, the three flagship fertilizers, Thabiti DAP,  Thabiti CAN and Thabiti Urea, meant for wheat, barley, vegetables and sugarcane, now means farmers can access the fertilizers in time to continue with their food production “As key industry players in the Kenyan agricultural sector and having interacted with our farmers over time we feel it is our duty to facilitate a sweat free farming experience for these farmers. We have noticed with a lot of concern how badly the fertilizer distribution channels in the country are arranged. We feel we need to step in and play our part with the packaging and selling of these world class fertilizers,” said Nelson Maina Head of Communication at Elgon Kenya.