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Gov’t to prioritize development of vibrant competitive seed system

The Ministry of Agriculture through the State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research will recognize and prioritize the development of a vibrant and competitive seed system.

This move by the government will assist in the development of the agricultural sector and realization of the country’s production targets.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Director Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives Naomi Kamau, State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research Principal Secretary (PS) Dr. Francis Owino stated that the country needs a vibrant and competitive seed system that integrates local initiatives and assures timely supply of adequate quality seeds.

“Agriculture is key to the development of the economy, contributing to 23 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” said the PS, adding that annual GDP often rolls in sync with agricultural sector growth, underscoring the central role agriculture plays in the national economy.

Owino noted that agricultural inputs namely fertilizers, agrochemicals, credit and seed are critical in ensuring that agriculture remains and sustains a growth path that enables the sector to address the national food security needs.

“Over the last couple of years, Kenya has undertaken a number of initiatives like targeted seed development, national seed policy and review of the seeds and plant varieties act in a bid to provide an enabling environment and facilitate the realization of a vibrant seed system,” he said.

He reiterated that the initiatives have improved access to a variety of seed, introduced security labels to check counterfeits, improved import and export processes and even authorized private seed inspectors.

“We intend to double and strengthen our efforts to a vibrant and competitive seed system,” the PS maintained.

Owino vowed to confront the lingering challenges in the seed sector including inadequacy of suitable maize varieties, inadequacy of foundation seed, long duration and high cost of variety release, inadequate production of certain categories of seed and weak extension systems to support adoption of recommended agronomic practices.

The National Potato Council of Kenya (NCPK) Chief Executive, Wachira Kaguongo stated that the success of farmers largely depends on whether or not they can acquire proper certified seed.

“Farmers especially in the potato industry need support because good certified seeds are very costly,” he remarked.

At the same time, Trans Nzoia County Executive for agriculture, Mary Nzomo urged farmers to educate themselves and acquire proper seed varieties for the appropriate soil and weather patterns.

“Farmers should not just stick to the seed varieties passed down from their parents, emerging pests and diseases will only be countered by informed farmers,” said Nzomo.

Rosemary Wanjiru, a potato farmer, lamented about the market constantly requiring farmers to take risks with low variety yielding seeds.

“Seeds that are high variety yielders have no market and yet low variety yielders have a large market, this can be very frustrating to us farmers,” said Wanjiru.

By Michael Mulinge

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