Seeds agency dismisses fears of shortage ahead of planting

The Kenya Seed Company (KSC) has dismissed fears that it does not have enough maize seed stock to meet the country’s demand amid a growing uproar over its move to increase prices by 20 per cent.

The company’s head of sales and marketing Sammy Chepsiror said the company had 36 million kilogrammes of seed varieties for the country’s varying ecological zones.

“The seed stock we have surpasses the country’s demand for low, medium and high altitude ecological zones,” Mr Chepsiror said during an interview at the company’s offices in Kitale.

He said the increase in the price of seeds from Sh150 to Sh180 per kilogramme was necessitated by the rising cost of production and higher demands by growers.

“The company has not been spared from the rising cost of production. In addition, we were forced to increase our payments to seed growers following protests,” said Mr Chepsiror.

A 10-kilogramme bag of maize seeds is selling at Sh1,800, up from Sh1,500 during the last planting season, while a 25-kilogramme one goes for Sh4,500 from Sh3,750, becoming the first review in the past 10 years.

Farmers from Trans Nzoia are protesting the price increase terming it unrealistic on grounds that the company gets all farm inputs at subsidised prices unlike common farmers.

“It is wrong for the company to cite a high cost of production yet it enjoys reduced farm input prices on account of it being a parastatal,” said Mr Bernard Atambo, a farmer at Kibomet.

KSC’s managing director Willy Bett last year told the parliamentary Public Investment Committee the company faces a Sh1.2 billion cash flow deficit owing to failure by the government to remit funds meant to meet its products’ subsidisation programme.

Mr Bett said the company had been operating on expensive borrowing after the government directed it to lower its seeds prices.

“The company heeded a government directive to lower its maize seed prices to make it affordable for farmers but has not received funds from the government to fill the gap,” Mr Bett told the Adan Keynan-led committee, then.