Alarm over supply of fake maize seed in Murang'a

Murang’a County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo

Murang’a County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo. He said the government will ensure farmers only access certified seed maize.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Fake and substandard maize seeds have started circulating in Murang'a County as the March-May rains started last weekend. 

Authorities have warned of a crackdown.

"We are liaising with all the relevant departments to ensure farmers only access certified seeds," said County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo.

He said stockists have been warned against buying seeds from uncertified wholesalers.

"But the biggest problem is the cost of the seeds. While certified ones are retailing at between Sh250 and Sh350 per kilo, the substandard ones are being retailed at between Sh150 and Sh200 per kilo, hence taking advantage of the saving to hook many," said Small Scale Holders Farmers Association chairman John Nduati

He added that most farmers send their children or farmhands to buy for the seeds; others trustg boda operators to buy and deliver the seeds to their homes.

He added that media advertisements about seeds should be regulated since dozens of new ones emerge every planting season.

Some, he said, are touted to take only two months to mature and can withstand little or no rain, while at the same time resisting all pests and diseases.

"There is no such variety here … We should protect our farmers against these acts of deceit," he said.

Mr Nduati lamented that the seeds are packaged, distributed and stocked under the noses of government officials.

Opportunity lost

“You can imagine the labour and opportunity lost where agribusiness has been taken hostage by fake inputs, and entrepreneurs with no care for uplifting the grassroots economy through agriculture," he said.

He added: "It is even more sad to note that some of the fake seeds and seedlings are donated by the political class and NGOs as the government watches."

He called on the government to crack down on the menace.

Maize seeds contribute directly to the price levels of maize flour.

Former Murang’a Agriculture Chief Executive Albert Mwaniki had in 2021 reported to the county assembly that the work of ensuring quality assurance in the seeds sector belongs to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), and which was not being felt.

“The problems that are being cited by seed consumers should be taken seriously and all those institutions mandated to engineer, improve, distribute and enforce standard controls take their work seriously,” he said.

Last week, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi said the government intends to close all uncertified seed outlets and prosecute those who deal in counterfeits.

The CS maintained that the seeds sector must have traceability, where a well-defined and documented source, technology used, geo-mapped strengths and disclaimers are accessible to the customer.

“Quality control measures will be rolled out in the market to ensure no dealer is hoodwinking farmers on seeds. We will come up with mobile phone-based technology that gives a farmer the ability to seek authentication of seeds on offer," he said.

By sending the serial number on the packet to a toll free number, he said, an instant message will be sent back authenticating or otherwise, the seeds.