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Kenya

MPs say scarcity of seeds artificial

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has launched a probe into the seed and fertiliser shortage in the country, which it believes is artificial.

Chairman John Mututho on Tuesday led the committee members to the National Produce and Cereals Board (NCPB) headquarters to find out why the inputs\’ distribution system has seemingly failed.

"We have a strong feeling that this is a scam in the making that will result in a very poor supply of food next year.  For that reason, we are moving to the NCPB to study the issues of fertiliser and from there, we will go to Kitale to check on the seed distribution system," Mr Mututho said.

The team will also be looking at the amount of food in stock in the country in order to determine whether the spiralling prices in food is proportional to the stocks available.

The shortage is being witnessed a time when the Agriculture Ministry has been distributing free and fast maturing cereals and legume seeds and subsidised fertiliser to various parts of the country to cushion farmers from high input costs, fuelling speculation that there are unscrupulous middlemen who are involved.

There are also reports that the same rogue businessmen are selling adulterated seeds to farmers, a move that will affect food productivity.

"When people say there are no seeds, we are going to listen to them and investigate. We are not subordinate to the Ministry of Agriculture and we are going to deal with whoever is behind this," Mr Mututho stated.

The committee has expressed concern that the shortage has resulted in delayed planting which will equally affect the expected crop yields and led to an estimated Sh16billion loss to the economy.

"Studies have shown that if you delay planting by two weeks, you will lose 25 percent of the anticipated yields. In monetary terms, this means that the government will lose not less than Sh16billion worth of food," he explained.

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A detailed report of the findings will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday next week after which the chairman vowed stiff action would be taken on those found culpable.

Last week, the government admitted that the country was facing a deficit of 1.5million kilograms of seeds this year.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome on Tuesday reiterated that the government was aware of the shortage and added that it was working with its extension service officers on the ground to catch the culprits.

"When you are to distribute seeds and fertiliser to over two million farmers, it becomes challenging but we are not surprised at what is happening because a business like that has to have bad people. However, we have a comprehensive system that will help us to catch up with those people," the PS said.

Dr Kiome further downplayed the impact of the shortage saying the Kenya Seed Company which supplies about 80 percent of the seeds in Kenya has been able to effectively cover its market share.

"The Kenya Seed has covered its supply so we have done relatively well. Its only five or so percent that has been lacking and we have provided advisory services on how to deal with that," he assured.

Follow us TWITTER @CapitalFM_Kenya and the author at https://twitter.com/Cirunjoroge
 

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