MPs grill firm's bosses over 1,544 extra bags used to package fake fertiliser

When President William Ruto (Centre), NCPB Regional Manager North Rift Gilbert Rotich (Right), and CEC Agriculture Uasin Gishu County Edward Sawe (left) visited the National Cereals and Produce Board Eldoret Depot. [PCS]

The company whose bags were found to contain fake fertiliser sold to farmers through National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB) stores was on Tuesday put to task by MPs over the scandal.

Supreme Packaging LLP Company appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Livestock where it was hard-pressed to explain how bags  bearing its logo and artwork ended up containing fake fertiliser that made its way to farmers across the country.

The Tigania West MP John Mutunga-led committee also sought to know why the company had produced excess bags for packaging fertiliser after it emerged that KELS Chemicals company- which is the manufacturer of the fertiliser in question- had told the committee that it distributed 69,670 bags against 68,126 bags which Supreme packaging company claimed to have produced.

The House team raised concern over the extra 1,544 bags that were used to package the fake fertiliser and sought to hold the company liable.

“The bags in circulation containing fake fertiliser were supplied by Supreme packaging. Did you undertake any due diligence to find out what was contained in your bags?” Posed Wajir West MP Farah Yussuf.

Borabu MP Patrick Osero alleged foul play and a possible collision between KELS and Supreme packaging and insisted that the company come clean on the source of the extra bags.

“The crux of the matter is that if there were any extra bags that were filled with soil and other materials and distributed to farmers as fertiliser then we will apportion the blame on you,” said Osero.

Soy MP David Kiplagat sought clarity on the quality of the bags produced and whether the packaging company had acquired the necessary certifications from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

Supreme Packaging Managing Partner Ashish Navinchandra Shah and the operations manager Samson Kechukah, however, absolved themselves from blame, claiming that it could not account for the excess bags.

“We are not in a position to account for any extra bags. We can only talk about what we produced. We do not know where they (KELS chemicals) got the extra bags from,” said Navichandra.

He explained that when KELS approached Supreme packaging for the production of the bags, they manufactured “laminated” bags which were added an extra layer to ensure the contents do not absorb moisture during storage.

“As it stands, we only supplied the bags to KELS chemicals under the subsidy programme…we however do produce bags for other companies not on the subsidy programme,” said Navichandra.

The committee was however surprised by a submission by Kechukah that the Supreme packaging company could not tell whether the bags found to be containing the fake fertiliser belonged to them or not.

This emerged after Osero sought to know what features made it possible for the company to differentiate its bags from others in the market.

“It is very hard to differentiate bags from others in terms of physical observation. They are very similar standard-wise. You might have to check the weight contents to know the difference,” said Kechukah.

Mutunga however pressed the officials to explain their involvement - with Mems Distributors Limited, the firm which is under probe for allegedly fraudulently winning a tender by NCPB for the supply of 616,000 bags of fertilizer. 

To which the operations manager answered, “We have never met with any official from Mems. The first time we heard of Mems was on March 21, 2024 when KEL Chemicals came to us with a proposal that we change our artwork to include Mems as the distributor. This plan was however never implemented.”

The committee is set to continue with the probe next week.

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