, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 – Athi River Mining (ARM) has denied claims that it was illegally repackaging fertilizer from the Government and selling it at exorbitant rates as alleged by Agriculture Minister William Ruto.
According to a statement from ARM, “the company purchases DAP and other generic fertilizer from the open market and then blends them into ‘soil specific- crop specific’ fertilizers.”
ARM said the fertilizer in their Athi River godown was procured legally from Supplies and Services Limited who brought it in an open tender to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Agriculture Minister had said 218 tonnes of illegal fertilizer had been nabbed at a warehouse operated by ARM.
He said the government had sold the fertilizer to distributors at subsidised rates but some of them decided to repackage it in other bags and sold it at exorbitant prices.
“Although it is not our business to follow them after they have paid us; there is an issue of governance,” he said.
Mr Ruto said the fertilizer was supposed to be sold in its original package and at reasonable rates, a requirement that was allegedly defied by ARM.
The Minister said the fertilizer was part of an agreement with the Japanese government to assist Kenya with materials instead of money. Under the agreement the fertilizer is supposed to be sold competitively to the private sector, a condition that Mr Ruto said his Ministry had honoured.
ARM did not buy the fertilizer directly from the government but from a distributor who won the government tender. The Minister said it was wrong that the distributors failed to follow the set procedures of selling the fertilizer to farmers at subsidized rates.
At the warehouse in Athi River there were thousands of bags bearing the Kenya Government logo, which were being repackaged into ‘Mavuno’ bags said to belong to ARM.
But the company’s management explained that it had blended the generic fertilizer before packing it in their branded ‘Mavuno’ bags.
“Mavuno fertilizer contains over 11 micro and macro elements which are not present in the generic fertilizer and after blending Mavuno is totally different NPK fertilizer as compared to generic fertilizers,” said the ARM statement.
When the Minister visited ARM on Wednesday morning, he ordered Kenya Bureau of Standards to establish if the contents of the fertilizer met the specifications labeled on the bags.
He also said further investigations were going on and the government would ensure all the culprits face the law.
He warned: “Investigations are going on and I’m very confident that the culprits will be brought to book shortly, Kenyans should be told the truth about what is going on in this factory. We expected Athi River Mining to be blending fertilizer, they have their own brand, we didn’t expect them to engage themselves in the kind of practice we are seeing here.”
The fertilizer controversy is another critical concern that aid does not get to the intended people since in this case the fertilizer was supposed to be sold to poor farmers at affordable prices.