The planting season is often characterized by high demands for certified demands, which in turn goes against low supplies. Taking advantage, dishonest merchants get a good opportunity to sell farmers counterfeit seeds which are usually packaged in packets very similar to the certified ones.
Detecting fake seeds may not be easy and depends heavily on a farmer’s experience or judgment. Counterfeit seeds are very dangerous for the agricultural sector in that they account for losses and poor production.
Partnering with the Kenya Markets Trust, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and Agri Experience, The Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK) is advocating for a new label technology which will make it easy for farmers to the genuineness of seeds bought from stockists and whether they are certified.
The labels are in the form of scratch stickers which are attached to packets. On these stickers is are unique 12-digit codes which farmers can send via SMS to 1393. The response is then received within seconds with a confirmation on whether the seeds are genuine or not. The best part, the SMS is totally free of charge!
The service plays a great role in assuring farmers of genuine seeds since they can now leave the stockists’ certain of the seeds’ genuineness. Farmers are, therefore, advised to send the code on every seed packet before actually purchasing the seeds.
All seeds packets which weigh below 10 Kilograms are required to have the label on by October this year, a move that will help fight counterfeit seeds. An added advantage is that it will be easier to trace seeds since Kephis will be able to prevent or stop the sale of fake seeds based on the data from farmers’ messages.
The move is an excellent approach to development and boosting of agriculture, particularly in the current times, where there is a maize shortage in the country. The shortage led to the importation of duty-free grains and simultaneously, a government subsidy to millers with the aim of bringing down the price of maize flour.
According to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Kenyans consume 100,000 bags of maize per day albeit low yields. Kenya produces an average of 1.66MT/ha while her neighbours Uganda and Ethiopia produce 2.5MT/ha and 3.42MT/ha respectively. To boost production, it is imperative that Kenya invests extensively in ensuring that there is sufficient food production especially by small-scale farmers, who are accountable for about 70% of the food produced.
STAK identifies the importance of increased confidence on certified seeds on the verge of climatic changes to improve food security and income b small-scale farmers.