In Summary
  • Using farm-saved seeds is discouraged because one can plant infected material.
  • At Agri Seedco, products contain labels that are unique to us and can’t be replicated.
  • Seed companies are investing more on research and producing seeds that are tolerant to specific climatic conditions.
  • Breeders and researchers are working on six maize varieties that are resistant to lethal necrosis (MLND).

Many farmers are in dilemma as the planting season approaches amid drought that is devastating the country. Brian Okinda spoke to KASSIM OWINO the managing director of Agri SeedCo Ltd and the vice-chairman, Seed Trade Association of Kenya, on the drought, fake seeds and what farmers should look out for from seed manufacturers.

The planting season is drawing closer as drought ravages the country, what advice can you offer farmers to ensure there is food sufficiency?
They should focus on early land preparation in anticipation of the rains and invest in certified seeds that are specific to their geographic regions.

For example, farmers based in dry areas should acquire seeds that are drought-tolerant and fast-maturing.

The weather has become erratic that some areas that used to get heavy rainfall are no longer at ease. What are seed companies doing to keep up with the changing weather patterns?

Seed companies like ourselves are investing more on research and producing seeds that are tolerant to specific climatic conditions.

Sometime back, we worked with Ukambani farmers and produced a drought-tolerant maize variety that is doing well in the region.

We are developing seeds that are suitable to various regions amid the changing weather pattern.

Competition in the seeds sector is high following new entrants, including yourself, but why are prices not going down to reflect this?

Seed production is an undertaking that requires huge resources. With the high production capital needed, unfortunately the costs have to trickle down to the farmer too.

Electricity, fuel and manpower are some of the expenses we deal with and farmers in turn feel the effects of these albeit to a minimum.

The seed grower base also want better returns for their supply hence the prices have to be the way they are to make the requisite profitable returns.

Despite that, Kenya boasts of the best seed prices compared to other countries in Eastern Africa, favouring farmers in the region, according to research.

How do smallholder farmers stand to gain from the new maize seed research and production facility thatAgri Seedco Kenya has set up in Kitale?

For a while, maize production in Kitale, which is the country’s breadbasket seemed to have reached plateau phase in terms of production.

We figured out that this could be due to ‘tired’ soils or ‘tired’ seeds. That is why we set the facility to help boost yields.

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