The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) has launched a text-based service to protect farmers from fake seeds.

Kephis MD Esther Kimani said the move is aimed at rooting out unscrupulous traders who sell untested seed varieties that perform poorly, causing farmers losses.

“These fake seed sellers have also been the cause of food shortages that make Kenya spend billions of shillings on imports annually. The new security service targets small scale farmers who buy between one and five kilogramme packets of seeds,” Dr Kimani said.

She said a pilot on the new service together with inventors of the text-based security seal service, Mpedigree, had yielded positive results, forcing seed sellers to vet packets to avoid being a source of fake seeds.

“A farmer buys seeds and scratches a boxed silver-coloured seal on the packet to reveal a code. Send that code to 1393 and you will receive an immediate response from Kephis confirming if the seed is genuine, complete with a batch number and the region-specific variety,” she said. Dr Kimani said dealers found dealing fake seeds will be deregistered and sued.

She added that Kephis inspectors had been put on high alert to act on cases of fake seeds.

The service include all crops propagated and sold by local companies across East Africa.