Moses Masinde, a farmer and a politician who owns 100 acres of maize in Endebess, Trans Nzoia County, is challenging the government to reduce the cost of farm inputs to boost the morale of farmers producing food.
Masinde says the majority of residents in Trans Nzoia County depend on farming for income, and the skyrocketing price of fertilizer is equated to killing locals who depend on the crop.
“We are demanding that the government cushion farmers by reducing the fertilizer price to Sh3,000 per bag of 50 kg. We should not be beggars through the importation of maize in the name of famine while we are capable of producing millions of bags of maize in our own country. Let the government support us fully by sealing cartels’ loopholes,’’ Masinde said.
He further urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to deal with cartels in the farming sector, which is the backbone of the country.
“Just the way President Uhuru dealt with cartels in KPLC, let him also deal with these cartels in the farming sector once and for all,” he said.
This comes as 50 kg of fertilizer goes for Sh6,000 to Sh7,000 at the retail shops. The increase in farm inputs has led some farmers to divert from maize to sugarcane farming, which is a risk to food security.
Already, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), through its managing director, Joseph Kimote, says that they have planting and topdressing bags of fertilizer in their stores for this planting season that will be sold at a subsidy price of between Sh2,250 and Sh3,000.
In Mombasa, a 50kg bag of planting fertilizer (DAP) costs Sh5,500, while topdressing costs Sh6,000.
Mary Nzomo, the County Executive Member in charge of Agriculture in Trans Nzoia County, has discouraged farmers from sugarcane farming several times. Instead, she says, they can divert to other short-term crops that can fetch a quick profit if they have found it difficult to continue with maize farming.
Ms. Nzomo challenged farmers to expand on farming ideas and take advantage of Kitale Airstrip, which is about to be completed, to export fresh crops to other countries.
She also urged farmers to try dairy animals for income rather than depend on mono-cropping.
According to her, Trans Nzoia harvested 4.8 million bags of maize last year instead of the projected 5.6 million bags due to drought and post-harvest losses occasioned by wet weather during the peak harvesting period.
Mike Musungu is a reporter at Radio Simba in Bungoma and a correspondent of Trans Nzoia County for the Western Kenya Times.