Kenya is expected to have its first fertiliser manufacturing plant in the central Rift Valley town of Nakuru, 150km west of Nairobi, by the end of the year.
The plant will supply 100,000 tonnes of fertiliser to the regional market annually.
The plant, being constructed by Fertiplant East Africa Ltd with a $10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is expected to produce various fertiliser combinations by mid December.
Construction started in July 2015. The actual construction will cost an estimated $6 million according to Fertiplant executive director Titus Gitau.
The plant fabrication is being done by Fertiplant Engineering Co. India Ltd with the assistance of Fertiplant East Africa in the installation and commissioning.
When complete, Fertiplant will compete with Tanzania’s Minjingu Mines & Fertiliser Ltd and ARM Cement, and will supply to farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.
Mr Gitau said Fertiplant East Africa will import raw material from Tanzania, Morocco, South Africa, Jordan, Russia, India and China to produce a combination of fertilisers.
“The Nakuru plant will supply locally produced fertiliser at affordable prices, help farmers improve crop yields and their incomes. Better productivity of staple food crops will also be critical to food security in the region,” he said.
“It is our hope that by using tailor made fertilisers and other modern practices like mechanisation and seed development, farmers will boost their crop yields to close the gap between actual and attainable yields,” added Mr Gitau.
IFC’s vice president for Development Economics, Hans Lankes, said investment in Fertiplant is part of the World Bank’s strategy to promote and develop East Africa’s agricultural sector’s competitiveness and to increase food security.
Over 65 per cent of East Africa’s population depends on both commercial and subsistence agriculture for employment, with over 80 per cent of the food being produced by farmers with less than two hectares of land.
However most farmers have limited access to high quality fertiliser due to high import costs.
Over the years, imported fertiliser has proved to be unsuitable for the soil type or crops, leading to acidification of the soil and reduced harvests.
Food security has been elusive in most African countries due to the high costs of fertiliser and seeds, compounded by post-harvest losses. General fertiliser application rates in sub-Saharan Africa are lower than global averages, at as low as 10 per cent, leading to low crop yields.
Kenya spends $300 million annually to import about 600,000 tonnes of fertiliser sold at a subsidised price of about $16 to farmers compared with the market rate of $35.
Already in operation, the Toyota Tsusho Fertiliser Africa Ltd’s $15 million worth blending plant in Eldoret town near Nakuru which was completed in July 2016 produces fertiliser under the Baraka brand in 10 kilogram, 25kg and 50kg packaging.
The company plans to enhance fertiliser sales by leveraging on automobile sales network established Toyota Tsusho Corporation over the years in Kenya and other countries in East Africa.
Currently a 50kg bag of MEA fertiliser retails for $30 and a 50kg bag of Mavuno brand of ARM Cement averages $22 depending on retail outlet’s location. Baraka retails for $28-$30 depending on quantities bought.