By Peter Mutai NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A
looming seed shortage in Kenya could hamper the country’s food
security, Kenya’s researchers warned on Tuesday.
According to Kevin Onyanyo,
Research Assistant, Tegemo Institute of Agricultural Policy and
Development at the Egerton University, if the shortage persists,
farmers are likely to resort to use of local uncertified seeds,
poor quality seeds, and varieties unsuitable for their
“This will ensure that
farmers don’t overwhelmingly rely on old varieties such as KS
614, which has been a darling variety to most farmers in Rift
Valley and Western regions,” Onyango said in Nairobi.
Researchers say the
farmers’ accessibility to the certified seeds is crucial to
attaining food security in the East African nation. Maize is a
main staple crop with 90 percent of the population depending on
it for their daily energy and carbohydrates needs.
However, according to UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , about 60 percent of
the farmers in Kenya use clean and certified maize seeds.
Onyango said if the
situation continues, farmers may reduce acreage under maize
production, adding the situation also creates a window of
opportunity for unscrupulous traders to sell non- certified or
low quality seeds, disguised as certified seeds.
“All these have a
potential to negatively impact on yields, farmer incomes, and
overall food security for the country,” he said.
Although farmers have
raised concern about maize seed shortage, the Kenya Seed Company
(KSC), a state-run body that controls the country’s seed market,
insists that seed is available and in adequate quantities for
KSC had earlier this month
dismissed claims that the country is facing maize seed shortage
but warned of fake seeds in circulation.
The firm’s Head of
Corporate Affairs Sammy Chepsiror allayed fears that farmers are
unable to access are certified seeds from registered agents and
outlets assuring of enough stocks to meet the high demands.
“There are adequate
maize seeds in our stock to meet annually demand. We encourage
farmers to access from registered stocklist and firm’s outlets
across the country,” Chepsiror told Xinhua on March 11.
However, Onyango said
seeds especially of the most popular KS 6213 and KS 614
varieties are not in stock with input dealers and are not
available in KSC stores.
Onyango said there is need
to focus on strategies that could mitigate this kind of
predicament in the short and long run.
He said the country needs
to prioritize and promote seed production under irrigation to
ensure seed availability is not compromised by unreliable
“The farmers need to be
sensitized, through extension services, on the availability of
other seed varieties suitable for their agrobiological areas,”
he added, noting that farmers need to be informed and trained
on how to access information on seed availability using ICT-based
technologies such as mobile phones.
The country has in the
recent years faced recurrent food security challenges resulting
from, among other things, inadequate access to inputs, high
input prices, prolonged and severe droughts and spiraling food
A large section of the
population, particularly the poor, has thus grappled with
inadequate access to food, sometimes resulting into severe
hunger and loss of life.
The weather forecast by
the Kenya Meteorological Services shows that the March to May
long-rains are likely to be enhanced over most parts of Western
and Central Kenya and near normal to below- normal rainfall over
most of the eastern part of the country.
“This implies that
domestic food production and supply from the long rains season
may be favorable in Kenya’s grain basket,” Onyango said.
“However, hopes of good
maize supply in the 2013/2014 cropping year may be hampered by
challenges regarding availability and adequacy of seeds at the
on-set of the cropping season,” he cautioned.