How collaboration should help combat counterfeit fertiliser

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi displays fertiliser sampled from KEL Chemicals. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

If the National Fertiliser Subsidy Programme achieves its full promise to get rid of counterfeit and substandard fertilisers, the recent fake fertiliser should have been nipped in the bud.

As the government imports and supplies 12.5 million bags of subsidised fertilisers for the ongoing planting season, a clear inspection and surveillance mechanism should have been initiated to ensure compliance. 

Various reports and studies have highlighted instances of counterfeit fertilisers entering the Kenyan market. The counterfeits often mimic genuine brands, making it difficult for farmers to distinguish between authentic fertilisers and fake pass-offs. Moreover, the informal nature of agricultural input distribution channels in some areas further exacerbates the problem, as counterfeit products can easily infiltrate the supply chain.

Counterfeit fertilisers and other agro-inputs like seeds and pesticides are a concern in Kenya and other developing countries where agriculture plays a vital role in the economy. Joint and targeted efforts by government agencies, such as the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA), KEPHIS, and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), along with agricultural stakeholders, have been underway to address the issue.

However, tackling this menace requires a multifaceted approach, and collaboration between various government agencies and private sector players. To win this war, we need an expanded partnership to include private sector stakeholders like the Cereal Growers Association of Kenya, Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF): Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KGAAA), Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) among others.

The collaboration will result in increased surveillance, enforcement of quality standards and public awareness campaigns to educate farmers about the risks associated with counterfeit fertilisers and other agro-inputs.

Recently, through a multi-agency team, suspected counterfeit seeds worth Sh20 million were seized in Molo and fertiliser worth Sh2 million in Kibwezi. Counterfeit fertilisers significantly threaten agricultural productivity and food security. Since agriculture is the backbone of our economy, ensuring authenticity and quality of fertilisers is paramount.

The proliferation of counterfeit fertilisers not only undermines genuine manufacturers’ efforts but also jeopardises farmers’ livelihoods and threatens food safety. Most counterfeit fertilisers are also sub-standard. These sub-standard products often lack essential nutrients required for optimal crop growth, leading to decreased yields and economic losses for farmers. Moreover, counterfeit fertilisers can have adverse environmental consequences, contaminating soil and water sources with harmful substances.

To combat this menace, collaboration between regulatory agencies is indispensable. The ACA possesses the legal framework and enforcement mechanisms to crack down on counterfeit fertiliser trade. Government agencies and private sector organisations can develop and implement traceability systems for fertilisers. By leveraging their respective mandates and expertise, the partnership can safeguard agricultural productivity, protect farmers’ interests and ensure food security.

-The writer is former Media Council of Kenya chairman and a communications consultant