A recently introduced scratch-off sticker labels for packages of all certified crop and vegetable seeds has bore fruits after farmers were able to detect some fake seeds on sale.
All they are required to do is to send a SMS code using their mobile phones to 1393 and within seconds, they get a confirmation on whether the seeds are certified.
The news will be a breakthrough by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services which had introduced the labels in a bid to save farmers from counterfeits.
On Friday, March 23, KEPHIS managing director Esther Kimani led her officials to a warehouse in Nakuru where they found 13.5 tonnes of un-certified seeds packed for sale. They were worth Sh2.5 million.
“We have ended the abrasive sale of counterfeit seeds that has been haunting our farmers by launching use of scratch sticker labels with numbers to be sent to code 1393, ” said Richard Lesiyampe, the agriculture principal secretary.
Once they send the code, farmers w get messages verifying the seeds purchased are certified. The name of the manufacturing company, species, variety number, HP class and testing date also sent.
Kimani has asked all farmers to always send the number to 1393 (quick response centre) for authentication.
“If you do not get the company’s and seed details then the seeds are fake and you should report this immediately,” she said.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) has confiscated 13,500kgs of counterfeit seeds worth Sh2.5 million.
The fake seeds were seized in a warehouse in Nakuru town, said Kephis managing director Esther Kimani.
“It is unfortunate that some seed producing companies have taken advantage of the planting season to sell uncertified seeds to farmers,” Dr Kimani said.
“Farmers should be careful. They should not purchase seeds not certified by Kephis. Most of them don’t germinate while others give poor yields,” she said.
The raid led by Dr Kimani found the fake seeds in stores leased by the National Cereals and Produce Board where 13.5 tons of uncertified seeds were found. Seeds confiscated during the raid included maize, soybeans, sorghum and green grams. They had been packaged ready for distribution to farmers in various parts of the country.
“Kephis officers received information that some of the seeds being sold to farmers are not certified. Some of stockiest who were selling the seeds led us to the NCPD stores,” she said. Prior to the raid, the fake seeds had already been sold to farmers in Molo, Nyahururu and Homa Bay. The seeds had been sealed and labelled to deceive farmers they are fit for planting.
“All seeds should bear Kephis label and further have a seal indicating the date of production and as well as the lifespan,” she added.
The company caught in the racket, Kimani said, had been warned several times about selling fake seeds. Dr Kimani said stern action will be taken against the guilty firms to serve as an example to others with similar intentions. Kimani said her agency will work with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure supply of quality seeds.
“Kephis will not allow companies to mislead farmers by selling them counterfeit seeds. We’ll put in place stringent to save farmers,” said the official. Kimani said their officers will continue inspecting seeds sold in the country to ensure farmers are not duped by unscrupulous traders.
In order to guard against fake seeds, the industry had agreed that all seed packets for crops and vegetables should be labelled using scratch-off sticker labels.
This requirement is now mandatory for all seed packets in the market. A tender to supply the labels was awarded to mPedigree, an African enterprise that offers manufacturers technology to help combat the sale of counterfeit products. This will assist to counter fake seed supplies and trace the origin of seeds that farmers buy.
The new labels have added security features including a scratch code that allow farmers to verify if the seed purchased has been certified.
How it works
A farmer sends the code from the seed packet s/he has purchased to a response centre to authenticate the seed. S/he receives a reply indicating the name of the company that produced the seed, the variety, variety lot number and the date when the seed was tested among other things.
The mandatory labelling of all seed packets with a label that gives farmers useful information was proposed by the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), following a series of negotiations that started in 2016 with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF) and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS).
The negotiations brought down label prices from KES 15 to the current KES 2 to make them accessible to all players in the sector. STAK will continue to play an important role in the full rollout of these sticker labels and in ensuring its success.