Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Egypt donates fertilizer to boost Kenya's food production

Written By:Rose Kamau/KNA, Mon, Feb 02, 2009

The Government Monday received a donation of fertilizer worth Ksh 6.748 million from the Egyptian Government to boost food production in the country.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto who received the consignment of the 1,687 50 kg bags of Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilizer at Uhuru Park grounds, said the fertilizer would be distributed to farmers.

"This fertilizer will be distributed to farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Board to mitigate the issues of high fertilizer prices during the long rains season in order to improve our food security," he said.

Ruto thanked Egypt's Ambassador to Kenya Saher Hamsa and his Government for the donation saying the fertilizer would support crop production thereby reducing food insecurity threatening millions of Kenyans.

The minister noted that Kenya and Egypt have strong long standing relations of import and export trade as Kenya exports large volumes of tea to Egypt who in turn exports large volumes of rice, wheat, flour, sugar and other finished agricultural products courtesy of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) arrangement.

Ruto observed that government's intervention had helped bring down the cost of fertilizer whose prices had been on an upward trend reaching a high of Ksh 6000 per bag but which has now reduced to half the price.

"The intervention by the government has had a tremendous effect by dropping the fertilizer prices by half and we plan to bring the prices even lower," he said.

He said last year at least 35,000 farmers benefited from the Government's seeds and fertilizers adding that this year plans are underway to scale up the number of beneficiaries to 70,000.

Kenya is currently facing an acute food shortage occasioned by a prolonged drought and last year's post election violence.

Meanwhile the ministry of agriculture has embarked on a rigorous campaign aimed at addressing the challenges and constraints bedeviling the sector.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said the ministry was grappling with major challenges in the sector including low productivity, marketing inefficiencies, inadequate value addition, inadequate financial services and low and inappropriate use of inputs such as fertilizers and certified seeds.

He said the Ministry had undertaken various interventions to address the challenges with the aim of improving the livelihoods of farmers.

He said the country's development blue print (Vision 2030) identifies several flagships and initiatives to address the agricultural sector challenges.

These he said include intensification and commercialization of agriculture through increased access and use of quality and affordable farm inputs and the government's direct intervention of procuring fertilizers in bulk to cushion farmers against high fertilizer prices.

He said the government also gives free farm inputs to resource challenged farmers a development that he noted saw 35,000 farmers benefit from free seeds and fertilizers during the 2008/2009 financial year with plans to scale up the figure to 70,000 this financial year.