Planting season is already here. During this time, farmers should be very wary of unscrupulous businesspeople and agro-vets who are after making quick money by selling fake seeds to unsuspecting farmers.
These unscrupulous people have mastered the art of manufacturing and packaging their own seeds which resemble the genuine ones, and at times even package the fake seeds in genuine packaging bags which they acquire illegally from seed companies.
How can farmers avoid being victims of the fake seeds’ scam?
- Farmers should only buy seeds from reputable or well-known agro-vet shops in their areas or from seed companies’ depots. Licensed agro-dealers will openly display their seed sellers’ license for everybody to see.
- Farmers are advised to always buy seeds that are packed in the manufacturer’s official package and never to buy if the container or packet is tampered with.
- It is also advisable to buy seeds early enough to avoid last minute rush. Farmers who buy their seeds late are most likely to fall into this scam because fake seeds flood the market whenever the demand is high, usually during the planting season.
How can farmers differentiate between fake and genuine seeds?
- Certified seeds are packed in containers or packets which are clearly labeled with information such as the weight of the seeds, name of the crop species and variety, packaging and expiry date, and seed source or the distributors.
- The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) is tasked with certifying all seeds and assuring the public that they are good for planting. Genuine seed packaging have KEPHIS logo, a serial number and concealed code. In addition, labelling and sealing of the containers or packets is done in such a way that seeds cannot be removed without damaging the seal or label. KEPHIS cautions farmers against purchasing seeds from open containers.
- Upon purchasing the seeds, you can check if the seeds are genuine by scratching the concealed label to reveal the code which you will send to SMS code 1393 to get feedback, free of charge. If the seeds are genuine, you will receive the seed lot number, date of testing, crop, and variety. If fake, you will get a message like, ‘No 2538851005559 is not a valid code. Check and send correct code. The seed may not be genuine.’ In case you get negative feedback, return the seeds to the vendor or report to the KEPHIS office, police station or the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
- Genuine seed packaging of 5kg and below has a KEPHIS tag inside to show that the seed was inspected. Farmers should check for this tag whenever they open the bag to confirm that the seed is genuine.
- Upon opening the bag, if you notice that the dye on the seed is coming off easily then know the seed is fake. The dye used on genuine seed does not remain on the hands when handled, whereas the dye on fake seeds comes off easily.
- Fake seeds are characterized by germination failure and poor yields. If you notice poor growth of seeds even after good management practices, then you could be a victim of fake seed dealers.
- After planting, ensure that you keep the seed packet and receipt as these items may be used as evidence in case you suspect that the seeds are fake. Report any case of suspected fake seeds at the nearest police station, KEPHIS offices in your County or the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
Other points to consider during this planting season include;
- Ensure that you purchase seeds that are adequate for the space you want to plant in a season as opening the packaging and leaving it open makes the seeds lose viability.
- After buying, avoid exposing the seeds to extreme weather conditions such as heat, moisture and direct contact with fertilizers. Also, protect the seeds from pests and diseases, as all these can compromise on the quality of the seeds.
- Plant the seeds at the right depth as deep planting results in failed germination.
- Adequately water the seeds since irregular watering results in abortion while excess watering makes the seeds rot hence failing to germinate.