The planting season in Kenya has just begun. But many farmers are finding it impossible to find the hybrid maize varieties they want to plant. In the Western and Rift Valley regions, there is a serious shortage of certified hybrid maize seed.
Farmers in the Rift Valley say that most shops in and around Nakuru town have run out of the popular hybrid maize varieties 614 and 6213. In Eldoret, farmers gathered at the Kenya Seed Company depot. Many waited hours to be served. They are worried they will have to plant late, which will decrease yields.
The Kenya Seed Company has admitted there is a shortfall of seeds. Willy Bett is Managing Director. He says, “We are experiencing a shortage of about 20 percent of the normal requirement.”
The shortfall is due to the fact that 95 per cent of seed reserves were used in last year’s free seed distribution programs. The drought in recent years has also decreased Kenya’s seed production.
The Kenya Seed Company has asked shops and suppliers not to hoard seeds or export seeds meant for local farmers. They also appealed for suppliers to keep prices steady. Farmers have accused middlemen of buying seed and selling it at elevated prices. There have also been reports of dealers selling fake maize seed.
Farmers are asking the government to intervene. The government is considering importing seed.
Sammy Chepsiror is Public Relations Manager with Kenya Seed Company. He says Kenya expects a dry spell and encourages farmers to plant sorghum, wheat and beans. He adds, “We have a shortage of 614 and 6213 maize varieties, but we ask our farmers to diversify and plant other varieties.”