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Govt moves to stem seed shortage

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 – The Ministry of Agriculture is developing a National Seed Policy that will seek to increase the production of seeds in the country.

Through the policy document, the ministry intends to make Kenya Seed Company shift the production of seed from rain fed to an irrigation system to ensure that there is steady supply of seeds each planting season and ensure stocks are not depleted.

Briefing journalists on Wednesday, Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome said the target would be to grow 36 million kilograms of seeds each year against an annual demand of 18 million kilograms.

"This is simply to ensure that we don\’t suffer the risk of lacking seeds because of drought because that is the situation we have now since we were not able to produce enough seeds last year," Dr Kiome said.

Farmers have raised alarm that there was a maize seed shortage in the country, and the ministry confirmed having a shortfall of 1.5 million kilograms this year.

However given the capital-intensive nature of farming under irrigation, the ministry has allowed the Kenya Seed Company to increase the price at which they buy seeds from producers so that the cost is not passed on to the farmers.

"They will increase the price to cope with the price in production so that we have a target of having in every given season an additional requirement for the next season so that we have a minimum reserve," Dr Kiome said.

The Ministry said the shortage had affected the highland varieties of seeds, which most farmers especially in the North Rift prefer.

Dr Kiome however said that only a number of varieties were missing in the market, urging farmers to purchase alternative grades to ensure they do not miss the planting season.

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"There is plenty of mid altitude seeds available in the market. So the quick option we are suggesting is that farmers substitute because the yield difference is almost similar," he said.

Should the situation go out of hand, the PS said the ministry was prepared to import additional seeds.

He however dismissed speculation that there was maize seed being exported out of the country creating the shortage.

The Kenya Seed Company is a major player accounting for over 80 percent of the maize seed market share.

There are an additional 85 licensed seed companies, which the PS appealed to help bridge the gap.

Dr Kiome also warned distributors against taking advantage of the situation to hike prices in the market.

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