By Zablon Oyugi
In a move to bolster the quality and accessibility of vegetatively propagating seeds (VPS), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has unveiled the Seeds and Plant Varieties (Vegetatively Propagating Seeds) Regulations, 2023.
These regulations categorise VPS into various groups, covering a wide range of crops such into root and tuber crops, oil and nut crops, sugar crop, medicinal herbs, spices and aromatic plants, beverage crops, fruit trees, grasses, and pasture legume.
Among them are tea, coffee, berries, ginger, sesame, mango, peach, plum, butterfly pea, sweet clovers, horsetail grass, Napier grass, tree tomatoes, grapes, pixies oranges, pineapple, cocoa, aloe vera, vanilla, tea tree, miraa, paprika, sugar cane, cassava, and macadamia nuts among others.
Under these regulations, individuals are prohibited from selling vegetatively propagating seeds without a valid Vegetatively Propagating Seed producer’s or seller’s registration certificate.
It specifies that the vegetatively propagating seed is that part of a plant, which is or is intended to be used for propagation and includes any seedling, corm, cutting, bulb, bulbil, layer, marcott, root, runner, scion, set, split, stem, stock, stump, sucker, tuber, plantlet, rooted apical cuttings, or mini tuber so used or intended to be so used.
Existing seed merchants registered under the Seeds and Plant Variety (Seeds) Regulations 2016 must declare their intention to deal in vegetatively propagating seeds.
The regulations apply to the production and sale of quality declared standard seed and certified seed of prescribed plant species, excluding seeds produced by farmers for personal use and sharing among farmers.
The primary objectives of the regulations are to establish procedures for registration, production, and sale of vegetatively propagating seeds, ensuring compliance, and enforcing measures for those involved in this sector.
The regulations require that every person who intends to be a producer of vegetatively propagating seed for sale shall apply to the Service for registration as a producer of vegetatively propagating seed and be issued with a license to do so by the relevant regulatory authority, in this case, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).
Failure to which, states the regulations, the person shall have committed an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Ksh20,000 or a jail sentence not exceeding six months or both.
Kenyans seeking to sell the specified seeds will be required to apply for certification from the KEPHIS. Certificates shall be effective from January 1 to December 31 every year.
“The regulator may suspend or revoke a certificate issued where a registered person does not comply with the prescribed conditions or any other regulations,” reads the regulation in part.
Producers are obligated to maintain detailed records of certified seed lots, subject to inspection. Certified producers facing suspension are barred from operating and selling rejected seeds.
“It is the responsibility of the vegetatively propagating seed producer/seller to ensure the protection of certified vegetatively propagating seed from damage, contamination and infection at transportation and handling,” reads part of the regulations.
Moreover, the regulations introduce a framework for grafting certification. Individuals offering grafting services must register with the service, submitting quarterly returns on their activities.
“A registered grafting service provider shall be required to submit to the Service quarterly returns on the quantities and types of grafting and other vegetatively propagating seed processing done,” reads the regulation in parts.
The Seeds and Plant Varieties (Vegetatively Propagating Seeds) Regulations of 2023 align with the government’s broader efforts to monitor and streamline the agricultural sector, ensuring the quality and integrity of vegetatively propagating seeds in the market.