Approximately 65,000 tonnes of fertilizer imported by the Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services Limited (KTDA MS) for smallholder farmers in the country has landed at the port of Mombasa, awaiting packaging and distribution.
The NPK 26:5:5 chemically compounded fertilizer was procured directly from two international companies – Ameropa AG of Romania and Indagro SA of Switzerland at a total cost of USD 29m (C&F Mombasa).
The Agency says the cost of fertilizer has been negatively impacted by the rising cost of natural gas (a key component in the manufacture of NPK chemically compounded fertilizer), unfavourable exchange rates, global supply constraints, high crude oil costs and the cost of shipment among other factors. The final cost of a 50kg bag of fertilizer the Agency adds will be determined once clearing and transport costs to respective tea factories across the country as well as marine and overland insurance costs have been factored in.
The supply of this year’s fertilizer follows the floating of a competitive international tender early in the year. A local tender to supply an additional 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer has been issued to satisfy the unmet demand of the commodity.
Application of fertilizer to tea bushes at the outset of short rains is necessary to ensure consistent high quality and quantity of green leaf essential for premium tea production. KTDA says it has ensured fast, cost-effective and convenient delivery to all registered smallholder farmers with arrangements having been made with transporters to move the fertilizer to factories straight from the port.
Last year, the agency did not procure fertilizer for smallholder farmers as a result of logistical challenges presented by the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
KTDA procures fertilizer in bulk for more than 630,000 small scale tea farmers, who are the shareholders of its managed factories, through competitive bidding. The fertilizer is distributed to the farmers through their respective factory companies.
“This arrangement enables small scale tea farmers to access high-quality fertilizer at the most competitive price and in a reliable manner. The KTDA fertilizer credit scheme enables farmers to pay in instalments for the fertilizer they have ordered for use on their farms. These payments are made over several months to ease the farmer’s burden on the purchase of fertilizer which is a major input cost in tea farming,” says the Agency.
KTDA Holdings chairman David Ichoho noted that his board has been engaging the government with a view of getting a subsidy for the fertilizer for the farmers and is hopeful that the government will favourably consider this request which will alternately enable affordable fertilizer.