Farmers will have to dig deeper into their pockets the next planting season as they may not receive subsidized fertilizer this year.
Agriculture chief administrative secretary Andrew Tuimur says that the distribution exercise and the involved parties are under investigation by the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
Tuimur’s sentiments confirm the farmers’ worst fears of not getting the subsidized fertilizer for timely planting. It also comes barely a month when the same farmers were up in arms on buying of maize at incredibly low prices.
The farmers have, for the past eleven years been receiving subsidized fertilizer from the government to boost their farm produce. However, earlier reports indicate that the input was yet to be purchased although the long rains for the planting season are nigh.
The government, in 2017, had made a deal with the Export Trading Company Limited to supply imported fertilizer for three years. But the contract was terminated after only two years.
As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture from October 2018 has been negotiating on the modality for no budget was set for the purchase of the farm input.
“We had a contract that was running for three years which lapsed January 11 but before we could finalize another fertilizer contract the Attorney General and DCI raised a number of issues regarding the contract. We had to pull back to allow time for the issues to be resolved first,” said Tuimur.
He also added that the investigations are part of what the Parliament Public Accounts Committee recommended after examining the Auditor General’s report on the National Government financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2015.
The committee recommended that EACC and the DCI should investigate the payment of 2.1 billion shillings made to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to fathom whether the money was indeed utilized for the intended purpose.
PAC also urged the two to investigate the total amount realized from the purported sale of the subsidized fertilizer to farmers by the government and allow for prosecution, if evidence permits.
If the subsidized fertilizer is not supplied to farmers, food production in 2019 might drop significantly. Traders will take advantage of the situation and increase the prices.
Traders sell a 50kg bag of fertilizer at between 2,500 and 2,600 shillings. Through the government’s subsidy, farmers usually get the input retail at between 1,500 and 1,800 shillings.
Notably, the difference in price will have far-reaching consequences. While other farmers may not be able to afford the high fertilizer prices, others will feel entirely demotivated.
Moreover, production costs will increase and that alone could have far-reaching implications on future maize prices.