• The growers also have an oversupply after the government, the main buyer for the seedlings, stopped buying two seasons ago.
• They said over 200,000 coconut and passion seedlings risk going to waste if they can't find buyers soon
Seedling growers in Kwale have decried dwindling demand after brokers flooded the market with cheaper plantlets.
The growers also have an oversupply after the government, the main buyer for the seedlings, stopped buying two seasons ago.
They said over 200,000 coconut and passion seedlings risk going to waste if they can't find buyers soon.
“The government used to purchase the seedlings on behalf of the local farmers but it is now a while since the last order they made,” Mwinyiamiri Bendera said.
Bendera lamented that the market has been destroyed by illegal tree nursery operators who reach out to local farmers and sell the seedlings at a low price.
Normally, an East African tall coconut seedling goes for Sh100 while the dwarf variety sells at Sh400. Bendera said the brokers sell the seedlings for as low as Sh15.
The growers said the local farmers go for the cheap and poor quality seedlings leaving the good ones behind.
Bendera said they suffer losses on multiple fronts because they have to get permits from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the Agriculture and Food Authority.
The farmers also previously sold the seedlings to the Tanzanian market. Even that has been lost to illegal growers.
Crispus Mutiso representing the Msambweni seedling growers said the unfair competition from the seedling brokers is killing their business.
They want Kephis, AFA and the government to sort out the issue, saying they are facing possible losses and closure if the unfair competition persists.
“Something must be done because we cannot adhere to all the rules and regulations of growing seedlings yet different people benefit,” he said.
He added that buying a nut to prepare a seedling costs Sh20. By the time it grows, it would have cost almost Sh80. Mutiso said the dealers selling for Sh15 are destabilising the supply chain.
Amina Nelima from Matuga said the government should help create policies to protect young farmers from exploitation.
Nelima said the Ministry of Agriculture should only deal directly with recognised seedlings growers rather than the local ones.