More and more, I’m starting to get the feeling that things are changing in Kenya. Current president Uhuru Kenyatta is on his last term. He’s the son of Kenya’s first president and he’s from one of the most prosperous families in the country.
He definitely isn’t in it for the money. My bank is in the hands of the same family, and if the country was managed like this bank, we would serve as an example, even for many European countries.
But every change comes with its challenges. Things often have to get worse, before they can change. Take for example the current situation with regards to fertiliser. Fertiliser is flown into Kenya from all over the world and in theory, it’s tested for authenticity upon arrival. Does it contain what it’s supposed to contain?
We typically avoid buying fertiliser from China, because you never know what that contains. And if we do know, everyone knows, including the current government.
The agency responsible for the inspections recently fired 25 employees. A completely new team was hired. But of course, they need some time to learn the job. As a result, not a single container is cleared these days. Everything stays in the harbour of Mombasa.
Suppliers are distributing their last stock among their best paying customers. We’re hearing the first complaints from growers that are completely without fertiliser now. It turns out that keeping your own stock is still worth it!
And that isn’t all. The interest that Kenya must pay on their Chinese loans is substantial. Their solution is to increase the VAT rates and to introduce new VAT on products such as diesel.
Speculations have resulted in empty petrol pumps. So again, keeping your own stock is a worthwhile thing to do. A week without fertiliser isn’t such a disaster, but not having any diesel for your lorry, that’s a different matter.
But there’s hope. After all those years, we have finally been invited by the governor of Meru to discuss how, as large-scale farmers, we can collaborate when it comes to development and employment. His dream is that the small, local farmers are going to grow flowers too.
We’d better get started, because there are many small farmers across Meru and the presence of Mount Kenya means that it has all climates, at altitudes from 1,000 up to 3,000 metres. I promised that if the governor helps us with infrastructure and permits, I will arrange the necessary knowledge. The area is suitable for so much more than just roses.
Simon van der Burg,