Firm at the centre of fake fertiliser allegations threatens to sue KEBS over falsehoods

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) CEO Esther Ngari. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The company at the centre of the sale of fake fertiliser allegations has now threatened to move to court to sue the Kenya Bureau of Standards for what it terms as spreading falsehoods.

 Silica Booster Limited (SBL), also known as SBL Innovate Manufacturers Limited, came out yesterday to dispel the claims by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), maintaining that the government agency was out to “create a reality that is not based on truth.”

 Speaking during a press conference in Nairobi, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Kariuki, said that KEBS had certified them to supply GPC fertilisers on January 28, 2023.

 “It was wrong for a government agency and, more so, the CEO, Esther Ngari, to give a false statement to parliament and members of the public,” he said.

 Kariuki questioned the timing of the accusations—right before the planting season, when his company is set to import an additional 6 million bags of fertiliser – and accused the quality assurance agency of being dragged into a war to stop local, natural-based, non-chemical fertilisers.

 “In the last two years, we have gained the trust, dedication, and loyalty of 100,000 Kenyan farmers across thirty counties, farming thousands of acres. This is the future of environmentally safe farming. This is what the competition wants to be stopped,” claimed the CEO.

 Adding, “We are shocked to hear that KEBS has not certified and approved GPC fertilisers, that GPC fertilisers are fake and lack the recommended nutrient levels, and that GPC fertilisers are part of the government fertiliser subsidy program. The accusations are false and libellous.”

 The development came a day after KEBS announced that it had found 5,840 bags of substandard fertiliser from various outlets of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) countrywide.

 During a sitting of the National Assembly Agriculture and Livestock Committee on Wednesday, KEBS Managing Director Esther Ngari revealed that a fertiliser by the name GPC plus Organics, packaged in 25-kilogram bags and which was being distributed to NCPB outlets by a company known as SBL-Innovate Manufacturers Limited, was substandard and that it had not been certified by KEBS.

 Ngari submitted that after testing 59 sample bags sourced from various NCPB outlets, they had concluded that the fertiliser under focus was substandard, noting that it was contrary to the organic fertiliser that the company had been certified to supply.

 The bags were obtained from NCPB outlets in Elburgon (68), Kipkaren Saliet (31), and Ziwa (45), just to name a few.

 “The fertiliser had high levels of pH, is dolomite in nature as it is composed of calcium, magnesium, and carbonate, whose purpose is only to act as a soil conditioner, yet the required fertiliser in the Kenyan soil is an organic fertiliser that is required to add nutrients and sustain growth,” said Ngari.

 The Tigania West MP John Mutunga-led committee heard that KEBS had already written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) seeking the arrest and charge of SBL-Innovate Manufacturers Limited owners.

 This was given the fact that they ignored the directive to only import organic fertiliser brand BL-GPC original and proceeded to improperly use the standardisation mark by bringing in fake fertiliser.

 SBL-Innovate Manufacturers Limited had been given the green light to import BL-GPC original fertiliser but imported GPC plus Organics Fertiliser.

 KEBS further submitted that the company in question “displayed the quality mark on a product that had not undergone the mandatory certification process as stipulated by the Standards Act and governed by the applicable standard.”

 “Through routine market surveillance activities and public complaints, KEBS recently identified a potential breach of the certification contract by SBL-Innovate Manufacturers Limited. This act undermines consumer trust and could potentially hamper agricultural productivity,” stated Ngari.

 The committee, however, sought to know why the institution had taken its time before commencing investigations and carrying out tests into the fake fertiliser.

 Ngari noted that with SBL-Innovate Manufacturers Limited having been given a standardisation Mark to import fertiliser in January 2022, the company had proceeded to deny KEBS access to their stores and those of NCPB.

 “This fertiliser was only being distributed from NCPB outlets, which we had earlier on unsuccessfully tried to gain access to. We went there on January 17, 2024, and were not allowed to pick up the samples. NCPB told us to write a letter, which we did on January 19 but got a response on January 31 this year. We then proceeded to do the sampling on February 5,” she added.

 “We had challenges getting the samples as they were only found in the NCPB stores in the country. What this company did is a contravention of the Standards Act and amounts to Fraud,” Ngari further stated.

 Chairman Mutunga, while emphasizing the culpability of the company, castigated it for potentially exposing Kenyans to health hazards.

 “This committee will summon the Ministry of Agriculture, specifically the state department for crops, and the NCPB as well so they can tell us how the product was given a clean bill of health and stocked in their stores. We will also have a meeting with the manufacturers so they can answer this committee’s questions,” stated Mutunga.

 Embu Woman Rep. Pamela Njoki demanded that the farmers who got a raw deal with the fertiliser be compensated. She sought to have NCPB produce a list of those given the fake fertiliser.

 Soy MP David Kiplagat regretted that some of the fertiliser may have already been used by farmers for planting and questioned how long the fertiliser has been in circulation.

 “Today I am a bit worried if this is what is happening. We need to know when the original and recommended fertiliser will reach the market,” he remarked.