Farmers have 30 days to pick up fertilizer under e-voucher system

The ministry of agriculture is giving farmers up to 30 days to redeem their fertilizer vouchers up from an earlier requirement of seven days as authorities give room to growers to access the input as planting season nears.

On Friday last week, thousands of farmers who duly signed up for the subsidized fertilizer program with local government officials and agricultural officers received text messages prompting them to turn up at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots to redeem their rations.

The disbursement of affordable fertilizer to maize farmers in Kenya’s breadbaskets of TransNzoia and Uasin Gishu is underway even as authorities prepare to roll out the distribution to the rest of the country in readiness for the long rains season.

Since Monday, growers have been thronging NCPB depots to pick up their allocations with a 50-kilo bag going for Kes3500 in a plan that targets over 2.1 million beneficiaries across Kenya.

The Kenya Kwanza administration is banking on fertilizer subsidies as part of its core initiatives to bring down the cost of food by boosting production. In total, the government has committed to subsidizing a total of 388,000 metric tonnes of various types of fertilizer and ensuring that the targeted farmer beneficiaries access the input at reduced prices.

The initial phase will also see farmers in Narok, Bungoma, Nakuru, West Pokot, Migori, Kakamega, Bomet, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi counties benefit from the subsidized fertilizer.

“I registered for 20 bags, I came here, and the queue is flowing smoothly; I only wish they had more clerks so that farmers can be served faster,” said one farmer.

Another farmer argued for further devolution of distribution points to ease congestion at the main NCPB depots to save time and transportation costs.

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“The [fertilizer] should have been distributed to Kapsowar and other places because all farmers from Keiyo, Nandi and from as far as Uasin Gishu had to come here. We wouldn’t want such long queues,”

Gilbert Rotich, the NCPB North Rift regional manager, said the Eldoret and Kitale depots only managed to serve several hundred farmers, highlighting the sluggish pace at which the exercise was taking place.

“We managed to supply over 4,000 bags of fertilizers for the two counties. The farmers we managed to serve in Eldoret [on Monday] were 350 and 400 in Kitale,” said Mr Rotich.

The Kenya Kwanza administration birthed the e-voucher system of distributing fertilizer primarily to eliminate cartel-like practices that have bogged down previous government efforts to provide farm inputs at affordable rates.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi said the country has opened talks with Tanzania to import fertilizers in a move that the ministry says could see the cost of a 50-kilo bag go for less than Kes3000.

The National Treasury allocated Kes3.6 billion for the country’s fertilizer subsidy programme in September 2022 following a presidential directive to bring down the cost of the commodity by almost 50 percent.

To encourage the use of crop-specific blends of fertilizer to boost crop yields, the Ministry in early December held a forum on soil mapping to harmonize the national nutrient deficiency repository that will be critical in enhancing the blending of fertilizers based on crop and soil requirements fit for different climatic zones.

The main food crops grown in Kenya using fertilizers are maize, wheat, rice, potatoes, green grams, and beans. However, maize is the principal staple food and is grown in roughly 90 percent of all farms in the country while beans and Irish potato are the most important legumes and tuber crops respectively.

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