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Friday, 12 February 2016

Ensuring good quality of agricultural inputs through empowering seed stockists

By Bob Aston
The Kenya Plant HealthInspectorate Service (KEPHIS) - Nakuru through support from Standards andMarket Access Programme (SMAP) held a training for seed stockists drawn from Kinamba, Sipili, and Ol-Moran at Olivia Court Motel in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County on February 10, 2016.
In attendance also included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries led by Mrs. Emily Kioko, Laikipia West Sub County Agriculture officer, and an officer from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN).
Speaking while opening the training, Mrs. Kioko said that seed stockists are the first contact with farmers thus empowering them can go a long way in ensuring farmers receive good quality seeds.
She noted that the Ministry has worked with KEPHIS for a long time in empowering stockists and eliminating sale of fake seeds.
 “Farmers depend on us in getting quality inputs. Such trainings are important in equipping you with knowledge on how you can advise farmers on best crops to cultivate. We have to help farmers increase production,” said Mrs. Kioko.
Mrs. Emily Kioko addressing the stockists
She noted that the department of Agriculture has put deliberate efforts and strategies to modernize agriculture. 

Some of the efforts include commercialization of production for marketing off-farm for profits and fair returns to labour and capital investments.

Others include improving agricultural innovations, mechanizations, agro industries, issuing equity, and provision of inputs and credit facilities.
She said that currently either the County Director of Agriculture or Sub County Agriculture Officer approves potential agents and stockists.
“Previous structures were nullified by the devolution of the agriculture functions to the County governments. Most of the applicants for seed selling are producer groups and this has empowered them to bulk purchase and in marketing,” said Mrs. Kioko.
Mr. Ephraim Wachira, Head Inspectorate -KEPHIS Nakuru, said that the aim of the training was to enhance awareness of seed stockists on various aspects of seed quality and compliance with regulatory requirements.
“Seed stockists are the frontline extension officers. Training stockists on how to handle seeds in store and equipping them with knowledge would help improve agriculture in Laikipia County as they can advise farmers on how to improve production,” said Mr. Wachira.
He said that the government regulatory organization under the Directorate of Agriculture provides an effective and efficient science-based regulatory service for assurance on the quality of agricultural inputs and produce.
He said that KEPHIS- Nakuru serves eight counties namely Nakuru, Laikipia, Samburu, Baringo, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, and Nyandarua.
He took the stockists through the process of seed certification. The process involves registration of seed dealers, field inspection, seed processing, seed testing, labelling and sealing and post control.
He informed the stockists that KEPHIS would continue random inspections of their premises to ascertain that they only sell certified seeds. He warned stockists against selling carry stocks-seeds remnant at the end of planting season. He said all seeds must have KEPHIS-generated lot numbers.
He warned the stockists against selling vegetables, herbage grass, legumes, root crops, and stimulant crops seeds that exceed 6 months from the date of packaging. In addition, Cereals, oil crops and fibre crops should not exceed 1 year from the time of packaging.
He added that KEPHIS and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries always address issues of fake seeds when they are informed.
Mr. Samwel Migwi showing the participants different varieties of hybrid seeds
“Ensure that farmers are issued with a receipt with lot numbers when they purchase seeds. This would make follow up easy when seeds do not germinate. It is important to always keep the receipt until after germination,” said Mr. Samwel Migwi, KEPHIS-Nakuru Field Inspector.
He urged stockists to avoid selling suspicious looking seeds and opened seed packets. He said that utmost care is required while handling seeds to avoid breakage. In addition, it is ideal to store them in wooden pallets.
“Ensure that you do not expose seeds to sunlight and rainfall as seed is living and must remain alive until planting. Also do not mix seeds with fertilizers, chemicals, food stuffs and hardware items,” said Mr. Mr. Migwi.
Similarly, Mr. Jonah Kahwai, KEPHIS-Nakuru Field Inspector said that only licensed seed sellers are allowed to procure seeds and they are required to renew their licenses annually.
He said that they do certification in accordance with Seeds and Plants Varieties Act Cap. 326. The process ensures maintained seed quality during multiplication (bulking) in the field and assures the quality of seed in sale outlets by continuous post certification monitoring.
“Contravening the seeds and plants varieties Act 326 is an offense that can attract a fine not exceeding one million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both,” said Mr. Kahwai.

Other areas covered during the training include seed procurement, handling, selling, quality marks, and documentation; seed sellers’ application, premises inspection and licensing; and role of KEPHIS in ensuring quality produce through phytosanitary inspection.
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