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April 21, 2008

Kenya to help farmers access fertilizer

Kenyan farmers hit hard by high prices of farm inputs can now sigh with relief as the Government has released Sh1.5 billion ($24 million) to the National Cereals and Produce Board to buy top dressing fertiliser and sell it to them at subsidised rates.

Agriculture minister William Ruto has also confirmed that the Government has cleared all debts owed to farmers who had supplied cereals to the NCPB. “Last week we paid a total of Sh417 million and this week we have cleared the remaining Sh225 million. We will also pay farmers upon delivery of their cereals to avoid running into any debt,” the minister said. The minister was addressing members of the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) during their annual general meeting at the Jamhuri Park showground.

He said farmers were holding up to 10 million bags of cereals, which the NCPB was ready to buy.

Mr Ruto vowed to eliminate a cartel running the sale of fertiliser across the country who he blamed for the woes being experienced by farmers. “We have secured enough funds to ensure that the NCPB is going to sell CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate) fertiliser at Sh1,650 and still remain profitable,” said the minister.

He said the reduction of the cost of farm inputs would encouraged more farmers to shift from subsistence to commercial farming, a prerequisite, according to him, for the country’s development.

The minister’s remarks came at a time when many countries in the world are faced with food shortage, with the situation in Kenya exacerbated by the recent post-election violence in which more than 30 per cent of farmers were displaced from their farms.

Mr Ruto assured Kenyans that top on the agenda of the coalition Government was to secure the food situation by salvaging the crops now in the farms, unharvested.

He disclosed that the ministry was negotiating with financial institutions in collaboration with the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) to help finance agricultural activities at affordable rates.

The minister was pessimistic about the revival of the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) due to accrued debts and legal tussles. He, however, assured Kenyans that other institutions, like the NCPB, had the capacity to replace KFA’s functions.

Daily Nation

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