Kenya to double fertilizer usage

August 20, 2009

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – Kenya said on Thursday that its fertiliser subsidy program was targeting to double its use in the country and enhance agricultural productivity.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome said the Fertiliser Strategy and Action Plan would also ensure the availability of the commodity to farmers at affordable rates.

“For us to produce enough food we have to subsidise fertiliser and water. We are hoping that by doing that we will increase our fertiliser application to about one million Metric Tonnes (MT) in three years time,” he said.

At an average of 10 and 12 kilograms per hectare per year and a total consumption of 500,000 MT, Kenya is one of the countries where fertiliser usage is very low. This is against the global average fertiliser application rate of120kg of nutrients per ha per year.

The PS explained that the initiative also involved procuring the commodity in bulks so as to benefit from the economies of scale.

“By so doing we reduce the cost of fertiliser to the farmer by 10 to 20 percent. We can take this as a subsidy because if they (farmers) were doing it alone, they would not achieve that price benefit,” the PS added.

He said the government was purchasing an assortment of fertiliser which was given to all farmers apart from tea farmers procure through the Kenya Tea Development Agency.

Asked whether the government still has plans to set up a fertiliser manufacturing factory in the country, Mr Kiome said they were willing to give incentives to the private sector players in the region who would like to establish the plant.

“If they can come in, we can provide them with the environment in terms of tax or revenue incentives but if they don’t we have a plan to come up with a Public Private Partnership to encourage the business community to come on board,” Mr Kiome said.

However before the plant is set up, the government has to ensure there’s adequate consumption to ensure the factory is economically viable.

Only a total consumption of about two million MT would justify the construction of a factory in the region.

International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development President Amit Roy however proposed that in addition to sustainable subsidy, the government should ensure the access to modern technology by farmers to ensure the production of sufficient food.

Mr Roy pointed out that if this is done, Kenya as well as the Sub Saharan African countries would be able to triple food production without expanding the land under cultivation.

“On average the world produces three times more food in one hectare of land compared Sub Saharan African countries,” he said while emphasising the importance of the provision of affordable farm inputs.

Were the continent to be self sufficient in food, it would significantly reduce the import bill which is estimated at $18 billion.

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