Maize farmers from South Rift counties of Bomet and Narok are counting huge losses after they were supplied with suspect seeds that have failed to germinate, leading to crop failure.
Several farms in the region are dotted with stunted maize plants with the affected farmers saying they were sold the fake seeds by traders, who we reusing Kenya Seed Company (KSC) branded packaging.
The crops have also been infested with pests and diseases, rendering them useless for conversion to livestock silage.
The farmers have petitioned the Kenya Plant Health and Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to investigate the matter and crack down on unscrupulous traders involved in the fake seed racket.
Mr Philemon Chelogo, who planted 43 acres of maize, is now staring at a loss of Sh600,000.
"It's unfortunate that as we count losses, stockists are in business selling the fake maize seeds to unsuspecting farmers. It's mind-boggling that the government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant investigating agencies, have not taken decisive action on this matter," he said.
Bomet Agriculture Executive Kipchumba Toweett said the matter was being investigated.
"Unfortunately, farmers have fallen prey to unscrupulous traders out to exploit them and cause not only losses but affect food security in the country," he said.
When the Nation team toured the affected farms, it witnessed maize plants that had turned yellow and begun to wither.
Mr Kennedy Omoiyo, a farmer from Mulot Central, Narok South, said he has planted maize for the last 25 years but has never suffered such a massive loss.
"I bought seedlings from a stockist in Mulot Central. I planted the 624 variety only for it to turn yellowish and wither off.
"I've used more than Sh25,000 and expected to get an average of Sh45,000 but I've lost everything after being conned by the fraudsters," Mr Omoiyo said.
The farmers had previously suffered losses after their maize fields were ravaged by the maize lethal necrosis disease that hit the South Rift Valley region.
Mr Rashid Tonui, a farmer in Bomet County, said he had expected to harvest 20 bags of maize per acre after spending Sh30,000, but the investment went down the drain.
"I bought maize seeds from an agro distributor outlet at Mulot trading centre and planted 23 acres. The crops germinated and later withered off," Mr Tonui said.
KSC managers are said to have toured the farms after receiving complaints from farmers, but they are yet to act on the matter.
When contacted, Kenya Seed Managing Director Fred Oloibe said farmers in the region had been duped into buying uncertified seeds that failed to germinate.
"We've done our investigations and found that the seedlings in the affected areas did not originate from Kenya Seed. Unscrupulous traders have sold fake seeds to farmers on the pretext that they are ours, but that is not true," Mr Oloibe said.
Arrested two traders
"Kenya Seed is a State corporation and there is no way it can deal in fake seeds. We've a market and stake in food security in the country. The company works with regulators in the sector including Kephis, Kebs and other government agencies in all production levels," he said.
In March, detectives from the Serious Crime Unit arrested two traders of Asian origin and a KSC supervisor over theft of seedlings from the company and selling fake seeds to traders in Narok town.
The detectives recovered 1,700 bales of stolen KSC's high breed maize certified seeds variety 6213 valued at over Sh7 million from a warehouse owned by the traders.
According to DCI, seeds packed in two-kilo packets were recovered when KSC's Narok branch supervisor and the two local traders were arrested.
According to the DCI, one of the suspects owned an agro-vet shop and godown in Narok town, where 10 tonnes of seeds suspected to have been stolen were stored. Another suspect owned an agro-vet in Bomet town and another outlet in Mulot sunset trading centre.