Reports that some multinational firms that export seeds to Kenya are withdrawing from the local market are not good news for our farmers.
The foreign seed sellers are attributing their shift to the government’s move to relocate a plants agency out of the Port of Mombasa leading to delays in clearance of their consignments.
The government removed the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) from the port and the work of inspection was left to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).
While the government argued that it withdrew Kephis from the port to reduce the number of agencies operating at the port to less than five in a bid to address numerous delays that were costing importers, it seems that the move has not alleviated the situation.
Kebs requires exporters to produce Pre-Verification of Conformity certification showing that the seeds meet the required standards. This certification is supposed to be issued at the country of origin.
This is the role that Kephis used to play at the port and the firms complain that Kebs has no capacity to conduct the exercise at the country of origin while Kephis had a network of partners across the world.
According to the Seed Trade Association of Kenya, many exporters want to withdraw from the market due to the delays that are subjecting them to extra costs running into millions.
We urge the main stakeholders to go back to the drawing board and find a solution to the impasse.
We should not forget that the main loser will be the farmer who will have to bear the extra costs incurred by these firms in form of higher seed prices.
It makes no sense giving an agency that has no expertise in inspecting plants the critical role yet there already exists an agency that can perform that task.
The main goal should be to strive to ease the delays at the port not compound them.
We urge the government to ensure that it ends the delays at the port by putting in place measures that will achieve that end.
It is not too late to rethink the directive by ensuring that critical agencies work in unison for the benefit of the end users, in this case being the farmers who buy seeds.