UASIN GISHU, Kenya, Mar 11 – President Mwai Kibaki has assured farmers of the government’s commitment to ensure availability and access to affordable farm inputs, especially fertilizers and seeds.
President Kibaki said DAP fertilizer would be sold at a reduced price of Sh2,500 while CAN fertilizer will retail at Sh1,650 per 50kg bag from a high of Sh6,000.
"It is for this reason that the government has taken over procurement of 40 percent of the national fertilizer requirement. This will cost Sh6.2 billion, excluding the tea fertilizer being bought by KTDA for Sh1.6 billion. The total amount of fertilizer to be procured by the government and the KTDA will be 163,000 metric tons", President Kibaki disclosed.
The President who spoke at Moi’s Bridge Centre in Uasin Gishu District said the price of seed had also been reduced by Sh50 and Sh10 per 10kg packet and 2kg packet respectively.
He used the occasion to launch the food production campaign and flagged off fertilizer to various depots for distribution to farmers.
"We want to reduce the cost of farm inputs so that farmers can increase production and also benefit from their hard work," President Kibaki said.
He added that the government had put in place various short and long term measures to militate against food deficits in the country.
President Kibaki pointed out that the short-term measures include targeted subsidy schemes for the vulnerable groups under the Kilimo plus program and waiver of duty on imported maize for six months.
The President said the government would also raise maize purchase prices by National Cereals and Produce Board to encourage farmers so as to increase maize production, adding that the government would import seven million bags of white maize to address the shortage of the commodity in the country.
Other measures include bulk importation of 163,000 MT of fertilizer and increasing the Strategic Grain Reserve from the current four million bags to six million bags by the end of this financial year and eight million bags by the year 2010.
"The government has also put in place several long term measures such as strengthening research and extension, establishing irrigation projects and, promoting production of traditional crops to ensure sustained food security," the President said.
Observing that the post-election violence that rocked the country early last year was partly to blame for the current food crisis which resulted in destruction of maize and disruption of farming activities in some parts of the Country, President Kibaki appealed to Kenyans to live peacefully with one another in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
He asked farmers to take advantage of the reduced fertilizer and seed prices to embark on serious food production so as to make the country self sufficient.
The President attributed the low national food production in the country to depressed rains for two seasons in Eastern and Central and unaffordable fertilizer prices in North Rift and Western provinces.
The Head of State observed: "Last year’s national maize production was estimated at 26 million bags against a target of 34 million. The failed short rains in Eastern and Central Provinces led to near total crop failure, realizing 1.8 million bags of maize against normal production of 6 million bags. An estimated 30-40 percent of farmers in North Rift and Western Kenya planted either with sub-optimal fertilizer levels or none at all, due to the high prices of fertilizer."
President Kibaki said North Rift was a strategic grain production region and a good market for farm inputs with a storage capacity of 4.8 million bags of maize.
Speaking during the occasion, Agriculture Minister William Ruto thanked the President for ensuring the increase of funds for the Ministry of Agriculture from 4.5 percent to 8 percent of the national budget.
The Agriculture Minister also thanked the President for increasing the nation food reserve from four million to eight million bags, saying this would go a long way towards guaranteeing the country’s food security.
To boost food production, Mr Ruto said 78,000 less endowed farmers would be provided with affordable fertilizers and seeds with 43,000 of them coming from Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Bungoma districts.
The minister said the government was also providing sweet potato, cassava, sorghum and millet seeds to farmers across the country so as to promote production of local foods.