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Govt imports 22,000 tonnes of fertilizer to boost food production

17 January 2014, 08:00

Nairobi - The government has imported 22,000 tonnes of DAP fertilizer ahead of the rainy season to boost food production in the country.

National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) said the 22,000 tonnes of fertilizer which was in Mombasa on Wednesday was imported from Saudi Arabia.

NCPB CEO Cornel Ngelechey said the government will import 100, 000 metric tonnes of subsidized fertilizer this year to assist farmers.

"We urge farmers to gear themselves to purchase it for the coming planting season," Ngelechey said when he received the fertilizer late on Wednesday in Mombasa.

Kenya has been facing the challenge of less fertilizer use because of the cost as nearly all the fertilizer used in the continent is imported.

The 50 kg bag of fertilizer retails at about 28.8 U.S. dollars per compared to 29 dollars per bag previously. Efforts by specific African countries to manufacture fertilizers have either failed or are being implemented.

But soil fertility experts said here that farmers, especially small holder farmers should be educated on alternative fertilizers essentially that are made from conversion of farm waste into organic fertilizer.

There is also the concept of using crops that inject nutrients into the soils, but this information has been lacking from most of the farmers.

Ngelechey said the second batch of 34,000 metric tonnes is expected in a month and the remaining 44,000 tonnes in March or early April. The board imported 42,000 metric tones of fertilizer in 2013.

"The NCPB will be discharging 2,500 bags of fertilizer per day to different destinations and we expect the whole exercise to be completed in less than ten days to come," Ngelechey said.

The importation comes after Kenya scaled up the use of organic fertilizer as the farmers seek to improve the fertility of their soils.

The synthetic fertilizer that is usually imported is expensive, and farmers cannot be able to build-up stock of organic fertilizer, also known as manure because they do not have enough farm waste.

The problem, say scientists from the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI), is that while the organic fertilizers can supplement the lack of synthetic fertilizers, the farms are small and therefore unable to produce enough farm waste. In other cases, the same farm waste is competing for other on-farm needs.

For instance, maize and rice stalks that can be used to make organic fertilizer are used as feeds for livestock while the maize combs are used as wood fuel.

While the livestock waste would be the most ideal for the making of the organic fertilizer, most farmers have only few or no livestock. It becomes even harder to collect the livestock waste where farmers are not practicing zero grazing.

- Xinhua


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