Photo: Farmers collect subsidized fertilizer at the NCPB depot in Eldoret in 2022 © Mathews Ndanyi


As the world contends with surging oil and natural gas prices, the global fertilizer markets have been experiencing a notable uptick in recent weeks, with consequences rippling across the agriculture industry. This development, while concerning, is not isolated, as it mirrors trends observed in the agricultural sector on a global scale.

The global price of ammonium nitrate per ton climbed in August, marking a significant price increase from the previous month. While this price hike may raise eyebrows, it is important to note that it remains significantly lower than the levels witnessed at the same time last year, which saw the introduction of subsidized fertilizer prices in September 2022 by the Kenyan government in response to the evolving dynamics of the global fertilizer market, providing a semblance of relief for farmers and growers.

Natural gas, a key component in fertilizer production, commands a significant share of the total production cost. In August 2023, natural gas prices sharply rose, and although they have since dipped slightly in early September, they remain above July levels. This natural gas price volatility has worsened the situation.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) in Kenya released the maximum retail prices for petroleum products that will be effective from September 15, 2023, to October 14, 2023. These new prices, calculated in accordance with the Petroleum Act 2019 and Legal Notice No. 192 of 2022, reflect changes in the global oil market and other economic factors. The price changes in Kenya have since taken effect, with Super Petrol, Diesel, and Kerosene increasing by KES 16.96 per liter, KES 21.32 per liter, and KES 33.13 per liter, respectively.

The soaring prices of crude oil and related products are exerting additional pressure on the fertilizer market. These developments demonstrate the industry’s vulnerability to external economic factors.

READ: Why the Increased Pump Prices Could Push Fertilizer Costs Upwards In The Long Run

To complicate matters further, the global supply of fertilizers has tightened due to reduced export volumes from China and decreased production within the European Union. In Europe, production cuts in Belgium, as well as lingering disruptions, have compounded the issue. These factors have created a challenging environment for both suppliers and growers alike.

The global tightness in supply is the primary reason behind the recent price hike and production cuts in Europe, particularly in Belgium, and geopolitical factors, such as Russia’s influence, are all contributors to the market’s volatility.

Globally, gas prices have retreated from their peak levels of the previous year, but they remain comparatively high. The geopolitical landscape, particularly sanctions impacting Russian fertilizer exports, has disrupted the historical flow of products across Eastern and Western Europe.

Additionally, China’s decision to reduce fertilizer exports in favor of bolstering domestic production has added to the supply challenge. These developments reverberate not only in Kenya but also across the global agriculture sector, where the interconnectedness of markets is increasingly evident.

Despite the challenges and price fluctuations, some traders in Kenya suggest that there is still an ample supply of fertilizers. However, market dynamics can shift rapidly, and a resurgence in grain prices may trigger increased demand for fertilizers in the coming weeks.

READ: Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Confronts Surging Interest Rates


In a concerning revelation for Kenyan agriculture, farmers, horticultural workers, and users of open-source water systems are increasingly finding themselves at risk due to the pervasive use of toxic pesticides imported from China and Europe. These two global giants are the primary exporters of farm chemicals to Kenya, where the consequences of this practice are now becoming alarmingly clear.

Recent data released by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, an organization dedicated to environmental and food security advocacy, has shed light on a deeply troubling issue: Kenyan consumers are unwittingly ingesting food tainted with residues of pesticides that were banned in Europe over a decade ago but continue to be sold to Kenyan farmers. This report, titled “Toxic Business: Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya”, highlights that among the 310 pesticides investigated, more than half were found to contain substances like carbosulfan, known for its potential to harm critical human organs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified carbosulfan exposure as a catalyst for liver and kidney failure, along with detrimental effects on protective layers in the human intestinal lining. Additionally, despite WHO and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) endorsements, glyphosate has been linked to cancer in humans, according to research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2016.

Equally concerning is the continued presence of carbofuran, labeled differently in Kenya but listed as a banned substance by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), both in Kenya and the US. These three substances—carbosulfan, glyphosate, and carbofuran—dominate the Kenyan pesticide market.

Today, Kenyan farmers are applying billions of liters of these toxic pesticides across their maize, wheat, coffee, potato, and tomato fields, particularly in the Rift Valley, Central, Western, and Nyanza regions. Shockingly, many of these readily available pesticides have been scientifically linked to cancer, genetic defects, fertility issues, and harm to unborn children.

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This thriving toxic pesticide industry costs Kenyan farmers up to USD 72.7 million annually (approximately Ksh.10.7 billion), sustaining the importation of these lethal chemicals while regulatory oversight falls short of reining it in. The report reveals that imported pesticides and fungicides are being used on over 635,000 hectares of agricultural land, implicating over 73 multinational agrochemical companies in this hazardous importation saga.

The report further underscores a stark reality: only a mere two percent of the total pesticide volume used in Kenya consists of sustainable biopesticides, while hazardous pesticides dominate at 76 percent. The pricing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides makes them more attractive per hectare compared to biopesticides, which are primarily used on beans destined for the European export market.

The consequences extend beyond human health. Chlorpyrifos, for instance, banned in the US due to its profound effects, continues to be used to control aphids in wheat-growing regions, negatively impacting the nervous systems of children and posing a threat to aquatic life. Even around Lake Naivasha, where flowers are predominantly grown, chlorpyrifos remains approved for aphid control, endangering the water supply and fisheries that local communities depend on.

This toxic pesticide issue is not isolated; it intersects with the nation’s food security concerns amid climate change impacts and drought. With genetically modified foods and their safety debated vigorously, neither GMOs nor the existing food supply chain assure Kenya’s food security.

READ: Indiscriminate Antibiotic Use in Agriculture Threatens Human Immune System, Study Warns

While the court halted the Kenyan government decision to import GMO foodstuffs, the ultimate decision now rests with Kenyan citizens who did not participate in the lifting of an 11-year-old ban. Climate change, coupled with the emergence of new pests and diseases, is forcing both commercial and smallholder farmers to resort to increasingly lethal pesticides, exacerbating the risks to human health and the environment.

In 2021, the African Development Bank (AfDB) conducted a survey in sub-Saharan Africa, revealing that smallholder farmers are turning to harmful pesticides to adapt to climate change, with these chemicals posing substantial risks to human health and the environment. The AfDB recommends a comprehensive ban on their manufacture, trade, and use.

As Kenya seeks to enhance its agricultural output to address the impact of drought in the North, these revelations about pesticide-laden foodstuffs on the market raise serious questions about both the safety and security of the nation’s food supply. The urgent need for stricter pesticide regulation and sustainable farming practices cannot be overstated, with lessons from this predicament echoing throughout Kenya and the broader African agricultural landscape.



Strategies For Success in The Evolving Crop Protection Market – Industry Changes and Key Factors for Survival and Growth

The crop protection industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, with significant mergers and acquisitions reshaping the market landscape. Concurrently, investments in ag tech and regenerative agriculture practices are being made by food production companies and governments worldwide. As the industry faces this period of transition and uncertainty, companies are actively expanding in three crucial areas: crop protection, biorationals and specialty nutrition, and precision agriculture technologies in order to thrive in today’s crop protection market.

Diversification Portfolios Reflects Industry Trends

Most company portfolios comprise of synthetic crop protection, biosolutions, and ag tech, showcasing a diversified approach that aligns with the current trends in the agricultural industry. In the current market, companies must diversify so as to adapt to change. Drawing a parallel to Kodak, standing still is never a viable option in any industry given the emergence of technology ventures in agriculture and the subsequent opportunities in sectors like robotics as well as the ongoing challenges in agriculture, including water utilization, precision applications, changing consumer preferences, government regulations, and investor demands. Companies adaptable to change and agile in execution will find emerging opportunities by investing resources into biorationals, specialty nutrition, and precision application spaces.

Tactics for Public Relations in the Agrochemical Industry

“Black Swans” are the need for the agrochemical industry to develop effective public relations tactics to educate the public through multiple efforts since there is lack of a comprehensive industry-wide approach. The application of different initiatives and approaches by individual companies and industry associations, each with distinct focuses, is crucial for adaptability and for the education of urban consumers who are detached from farming and hence need a better understanding of the food supply chain and to avoid misleading information which can erode consumer trust.

Overstock Challenges and Market Implications

The prevalent issue of overstock is a challenge that must be dealt with and clear strategies must be devised with excellent customer service for suppliers to be reliable. They aim to match the suppliers’ manufacturing to demand and maintain inventory levels at around 25% to 30% of net sales. This will deal with challenges faced by the industry due to supply disruptions and high demand for growing technology solutions. It is important to plan with customers so as to anticipate disruptions and establish dual supply arrangements wherever possible. Overstocking is a common occurrence in the industry, often driven by a short-term focus on meeting shareholder pressure and can sometimes tend to squeeze margins and lower prices, negatively affecting working capital and potentially leading to structural issues for some companies.

Prospects for Synthetic Crop Protection and Biologicals

Pricing dynamics between synthetic crop protection products and biologicals might sometimes lead to a shift in producers’ choice of one over the other solely based on price. However, customer decisions to use biorationals are most of the time driven by factors beyond price, including technological advancements, regulatory demands, and evolving consumer trends. Given this, the industry is currently focusing on soil health, nitrogen fixation, and finding a balance between synthetic and biostimulant applications to reduce environmental impact.

Addressing the Challenge of Labor in Agriculture

Recognizing the difficulty in finding skilled workers, labor shortage is a significant challenge in agriculture, affecting various industries. This shortage is attributed to mergers and consolidation that have taken place in the past two decades, resulting in generational gaps and increased competition with other sectors. In order to attract and retain excellent talent, companies need to adopt an entrepreneurial culture driven by a successful team and leadership that empowers employees and provides ownership opportunities. Incentives such as providing a company share plan, where a certain percentage of the company is owned by employees, can foster a sense of ownership and commitment. Additionally, comprehensive employee benefits package and diverse work environment can contribute to the companies’ ability to attract and retain top talent. are key factors in attracting excellent talent.

Summing it all up

To sum it up, the agricultural industry is witnessing significant changes, and companies need to adapt by diversifying their portfolios and invest in emerging sectors. As the crop protection market evolves, it is important for industry players to embrace change, implement effective public relations strategies, manage overstock challenges, and addressing the labor shortage so as to navigate through the shifting sands of agribusiness.


Syngenta Crop Protection’s Seedcare business has unveiled a groundbreaking solution for farmers seeking effective control over soil pests while also improving the sustainability of their farming practices. The new seed treatment, named EQUENTO®, harnesses Syngenta’s state-of-the-art PLINAZOLIN® technology to safeguard crops from the earliest stages of their growth.

What sets EQUENTO® apart is its novel mode of action, categorized as IRAC Group 30, which effectively combats the rise of insect resistance. By utilizing this innovative approach, EQUENTO® ensures precise control over a wide range of soil pests, including notoriously challenging ones like wireworms and red-legged earth mites. This seed treatment can be applied across multiple crops, such as cereals and canola, enhancing its versatility and applicability.

One of the standout advantages of EQUENTO® is its ability to promote sustainability within farming operations. With its low dose rates and limited solubility and mobility in soil, EQUENTO® offers highly effective pest control while remaining safe for both seeds and plants. By concentrating its action around the plant’s roots, it not only provides precise and efficient pest management but also fosters healthier root systems that contribute to improved soil health and biodiversity.

Furthermore, this groundbreaking seed treatment affords farmers greater flexibility in making informed decisions regarding their farming practices. It accommodates various application timings, dose rates, and even allows for mixtures with other insecticides and fungicides. EQUENTO® proves effective even under low soil temperatures, effectively controlling pests that either ingest or come into contact with the plant, ultimately reducing pest populations in the soil. Its exceptional target specificity empowers farmers to tailor the dose rates precisely to address specific pest challenges they may encounter.

Speaking to another newsroom, Jonathan Brown, the Global Head of Syngenta Seedcare, expressed the company’s dedication to innovation, stating, “EQUENTO®’s combination of a novel mode of action, broad spectrum pest control, as well as superior seed and crop safety reflects Syngenta’s commitment to innovation.” This groundbreaking solution transforms farmers’ ability to manage pests such as wireworms, enabling the establishment of healthy young crops critical for optimal yields, all while safeguarding soil health, biodiversity, and the environment.

Farmers face substantial challenges from insects and soil pests that not only threaten crop yields but also compromise harvest quality by providing gateways for diseases. Climate change exacerbates these challenges as it leads to shifts in insect pressure and spectrums faced by farmers. The continuous evolution of pests, coupled with the urgency to protect sustainable productivity, necessitates innovative solutions.

Approximately 600 insect species are already resistant to at least one insecticide, highlighting the need for effective and sustainable pest management approaches. In response to these challenges, Syngenta plans to launch EQUENTO® globally, starting with its introduction in Australia later this year under the trademark EQUENTO® Extreme. Further registrations are expected in markets worldwide, ensuring access to this revolutionary seed treatment for farmers worldwide.

By introducing EQUENTO®, Syngenta Crop Protection’s Seedcare business is spearheading the advancement of pest control technologies in agriculture while prioritizing sustainability and the future of farming. This breakthrough solution holds the potential to revolutionize the way farmers combat soil pests and enhance their farming practices, contributing to a more resilient and productive agricultural sector.

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