Fertilizer reaches Kenyan tea farmers

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has imported 57,000 metric tons of fertilizer for its small scale farmers countrywide.

The fertilizer consignment was imported in two batches of 28,500 metric tons each and has now been distributed to most of the country’s 500,000 small-scale tea farmers.

Last year soaring global prices saw the KTDA suspend the annual fertilizer procurement to protect farmers’ incomes from being wiped out by high production costs.

The prices had nearly tripled last year, rising from Ksh1,296 per 50 kg bag in 2007 to about Ksh3,400 per 50 kg bag in 2008.

The rise was linked to a sharp rise in global oil prices and the consequent increase in freight charges.

Some 90% of the farmers who have less than an acre of land under tea, would have seen their incomes nearly wiped out had the fertilizer been procured at such high prices.

KTDA Operations Director, Arthur Rimberia, said: “It marks the end of more than one year of waiting for our farmers and comes as a big relief for everyone.”

KTDA Managing Director, Lerionka Tiampati, said the one year break during which farmers did not apply fertilizer did not compromise the quality of teas. However, the drought experienced early this year had drastically reduced the crop output.

The 57,000 metric tons of NPK 26:5:5 chemically compounded fertilizer was procured through a public international tender, early this year after prices dropped from a high of USD $847 per metric ton in April 2008 to USD $350 per metric ton in January this year.

Kenyatta centre in Nairobi

The final price of a 50 kg bag of fertilizer will be determined after factoring in the prevailing exchange rate, the cost of handling and warehousing, and transportation to the respective factories across the country.

KTDA provides the fertilizer to all the farmers on credit. Farmers pay for part of the fertilizer cost through deductions spread over 12 months from their monthly payments for green leaf deliveries.