Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has warned unscrupulous traders involved in the fake seed racket against selling counterfeit seeds to farmers.
KEPHIS Deputy Director, Kitale Branch, Mr. Ephraim Wachira, warned that the supply of counterfeit seeds repackaged in fake company’s branded packs is illegal, and any seed trader who is found selling counterfeit seeds will be prosecuted.
Mr. Wachira stressed that the distribution of counterfeit seeds to farmers has an adverse impact on food production, income, families, and efforts towards sustainable agriculture.
‘‘Repackaging fake seeds to the farmers reduces access to genuine seeds from reputable producers,’’ the KEPHIS Deputy Director explained.
He said the mandate of KEPHIS was to ensure that farmers get certified seeds of high quality.
Mr. Wachira said cases of counterfeiting of seeds are normally experienced during the planting seasons when unscrupulous traders take advantage of farmers’ demand for seeds to sell them the bogus.
He urged farmers to refrain from buying seeds from unscrupulous traders, adding that KEPHIS had officers all over the country whose mandate was to undertake inspections, testing, certification, quarantine control, variety testing, and descriptors of seeds and plant materials.
“We have officers at the border points to check what is going and what is coming in in terms of brand materials to ensure that they don’t import or export counterfeit plant materials,” he said.
Mr. Wachira stated that KEPHIS has been training farmers on how to handle seeds and differentiating between genuine and fake seeds.
He also said that the plant inspectorate has trained seed stockists on how to stock seeds safely and without mixing them with chemicals that affect their quality.
“We also let them know seed validity, which is commonly recorded as an expiry date, so as to avoid selling seeds that have stayed for too long,” Wachira stated.
Mr. Wachira clarified that vegetable seeds have a validity period of nine (9) months, while other crops such as maize have a validity period of one year.
He said that after a period of validity elapses, seed sellers should call seed companies to collect the remaining stock to be taken for a retest test that is only done by KEPHIS as provided by the Law of Kenya, CAP 326.
Mr. Wachira also advised seed sellers that they should ensure they offer receipts when selling seeds to farmers, noting that by doing so, they will be able to handle farmers’ complaints.
“In case of complaints from farmers, the seeds should be returned to the seed sellers and then to the seed company. Seed companies will call Kephis to do the retesting of the seeds that have stayed for a long time,” Wachira assured.
He advised those willing to start selling seeds to contact their respective county governments for licensing.
Wachira said they have also automated their license renewal services and that they can be acquired online by seed sellers once they make payments via Mpesa.
Mr. Wachira said KEPHIS has created awareness among seed sellers concerning suitable varieties of seeds that are suitable for farmers in different zones, like lower, medium, and highland zones.
Lower zones, including Kacheliba, need maize varieties like DH04, Sungura, WH101, DUMA43, and DUMA419. For the medium zones, they need the 5 series seeds like 513, 505, WH05, WH07, and hybrids 520, 516, and 517, while the high zones need the hybrid 6 series seeds like H628, H6213, H6318, H605, and H614,” he explained.
Wachira noted that they have managed to revoke the licenses of some seed sellers who were caught selling counterfeit seeds.
Samwel Koina, a seed trader in West Pokot County, admitted that the sale of fake seeds is a big challenge that affects both a trader and a farmer and urged KEPHIS to come up with more measures that could help address the challenge.
By Anthony Melly and Maurice Osore