An agency has been set up in Kenya to fight against counterfeit seeds that have reduced yields and affected food security in eastern and southern Africa
Launched by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Alliance for Seed Industry in Eastern and Southern Africa (ASIESA) will apply stringent seed regulations and educate farmers in an attempt to thwart fake seeds.
Kenya agriculture minister Sally Kosgey stated, "Our farmers have fallen prey to bogus businessmen selling fake seeds. The repercussion has been poor yields that have left us with a food deficit.
"The new alliance will help us enhance the business competitiveness of seed companies and value chain enterprises in eastern and southern Africa."
Asiesa is also expected to strengthen and establish national seed trade associations for efficient coordination of seed-related issues.
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has reported that roughly four out of ten seed packets in the country contain fake seed and three-quarters of farmers have planted fake seeds at some point of time.
Farmers in Nandi county have been suspecting they were sold counterfeit seeds after a maize disease recently ravaged acres of a particular variety of crop.
Agriculture minister Kosgey, however, dismissed the claims by saying that research had shown that it was a common disease outbreak.
The Nandi farmers have vowed to conduct independent tests and take the Kenyan government and Kenya Seed Company to court, should they be found culpable.
Cases over the past few months have affected farmers in the breadbasket areas of Narok and Trans Nzoia counties, reports said. In Trans Nzoia, a fake seed manufacturing unit was seized after one tonne of uncertified maize seeds were discovered being sold at a leading supermarket.
The movement of counterfeit seeds within the Comesa region has been estimated to be growing at about five per cent per year since 2008.
African Seed Traders Association (AFSTA) secretary general Justin Rakotoarisaona attributed the lag in Africa's agricultural sector to low uptake and use of uncertified seeds.
While the global seed business is worth about US$30 billion, sub-Saharan Africa's share is just three per cent, which amounts to only $800 million.
"Having an enabling environment through seed policies and healthy competition in the sector, will encourage African seed companies to provide a reliable and lasting supply of locally-tested, high-quality seed for farmers," Rakotoarisaona stated.