KSC to increase acreage under maize seed production

KSC Managing Director Sammy Chepsiror inspects crops during a past Nakuru ASK Show. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

A rise in demand for certified maize seed in the current planting season has prompted Kenya Seed Company (KSC) to adopt new measures meant to increase seed production.

KSC, the leading seed producer and supplier in Kenya and Eastern Africa region has embarked on expanding its activities to ensure adequate and quality input in the coming seasons.

KSC Managing Director Sammy Chepsiror said they will double seed production area, from the current 23,000 acres to more than 45,000 acres.

Chepsiror noted that maize seed sales in the current season had surpassed last year’s demand by 2 million kilograms hence the need to enhance stocks.

"Last year, our company sold 20 million kilograms of maize seed. However, this year's demand has soared past 22 million kilograms," he said.

The demand for maize seed has seen long queues of farmers at KSC branches nationwide. Sources hinted that farmers flock to KSC for inputs owing to fears of fake seeds.

"Demand for maize seed is at an all-time high. Long queues of farmers have been witnessed at our KSC branches, reflecting a stark contrast to previous years where stockists and agents held most of the inventory," said Chepsiror.

The KSC boss attributed the seed demand to the government's campaign on the importance of food security and self-sufficiency.

The government's fertiliser subsidy programme has also motivated more citizens to venture into farming, leading to increased acreage under cultivation.

Chepsiror noted that a good number of farmers bought maize seeds during the short rain season which was enhanced by the El Nino phenomenon.

"Enhanced surveillance and prevention measures against counterfeit seeds have prompted farmers to prioritize purchasing seeds directly from KSC branches, ensuring quality and certified products, occasioning long queues," he said.

Moses Wamalwa, a farmer in Bungoma, said there has been a high demand for a variety of maize seeds, especially H6213, H629, and H614.

Wamalwa told The Standard that despite queuing for more than 6 hours, he was lucky to purchase seeds.

"I had to buy another variety of maize seeds as opposed to the ones we prefer as a family. We hope we will have a bumper harvest this year," he said.

Ben Sirma, a maize farmer from Waitaluk in Trans Nzoia said there were long queues at KSC branches and feared that his planting programme could be interrupted.

“I wanted to buy maize seed packed in 25-kilogram bags, which is ideal for mechanised planting but I was told there were only 10 kg packages,” said Sirma.  He claimed there was inadequate seed supply to meet demand from farmers.

Fredrick Rono, a farmer in Kiminini sub-county, admitted that there has been high demand, especially for the H6213 maize seed variety, known for its low post-harvest losses even during heavy rains and high yield of 37 to 50 bags of maize per acre.

Rono attributed the demand to some farmers choosing to buy the seeds directly from KSC branches. Consequently, some farmers, facing the deadline of the main planting season, have resorted to purchasing maize seeds from stockists and agents.

He revealed that while a majority of agents adhere to integrity and the rules and regulations set by the seed company, there are a few who exploit the situation for their gain.

Rono said that some agents do not give farmers their preferred maize seeds until they buy other farm inputs like fertiliser, horticulture seeds, farm chemicals and equipment.

Chepsiror noted that all maize seeds have a standardized price: Sh420 for a 2kg packet, Sh2,100 for a 10kg bag and Sh5,250 for a 25kg bag. He said selling above these prices is illegal.

The KSC boss warned unscrupulous agents against exploiting farmers, saying that legal action would be taken against those who violate regulations.

"We are proud of our stockists and agents who operate within the law. However, those who choose to exploit farmers will face the consequences," he said.

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