Happiness Zengeni recently in KITALE, Kenya—
Seed Co Limited expects to reduce the dominance of government-owned Kenya Seed Company after it opened a second plant in the East African country’s Trans Nzoia county last week. Trans Nzoia county is found in Kenya’s former Rift Valley Province, 380km North West of Nairobi close to the Ugandan border. Seed Co’s first plant is situated just outside Nairobi with an annualised output of 5 000 tonnes. The group believes the new plant in Trans Nzoia, generally considered the bread basket of Kenya, will consolidate its market share.
“We are targeting a 20 percent market share in this county within the next three to five years from the current 10 percent. Kenya Seed Company is the dominant player in this particular region although in the area where we have been operating from, we have 40 percent of the market,” chief executive Morgan Nzwere said on the sidelines of the official opening of the plant last Friday.
The group had budgeted $4 million for the plant development. Mr Nzwere said the first phase had cost $2,5 million while the balance of $1,5 million will be used up in April. In total, the group will spend $10 million on the plant, which will also house a research station.
“We expect the investment to ramp up total Kenya production to 15 000 tonnes inclusive of the Nairobi plant. This would make Kenya one of our key units bearing in mind that in good years Zimbabwe used to do 20 000 tonnes.”
Mr Nzwere said the plant will serve as a hub to expand to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Seed Co Kenya managing director Kassim Owino said the group had introduced new varieties which were suited to the Trans Nzoia area, which is commonly referred to as the Kenyan highlands.
“We are targeting to grow the business to 10 000 tonnes in the next three to five years. The new plant has started off on a 5 000 tonnes per annum capacity and we hope to expand that further. Five years ago, if you would have asked us, where we stood as a seed company in Kenya, then we would have told you we were on eight or ninth position out of as many seed growers. But at present we are now the second dominant company after Kenya Seed.”
In order to tackle the effects of climate change, the group had introduced new varieties which are suited to the altitude. “That’s why it’s important for us to set up a research station. We have already released three varieties which are suited to this altitude. Ultimately what we need to see is an improvement in the yield.”
Governor of Trans Nzoia county Patrick Simiyu who was guest of honour at the opening, challenged the company to improve the area’s yield. “I am pleased with this investment into the county. I am challenging you to increase our farmers yields to about 70 bags per acre. If we can get farmers to get those yields then we can develop the value chain and subsequently our economy.”
Trans Nzoia Agriculture chief officer Mary Nzomo said giving the nod to Seed Co to operate was part of the county government’s plan to liberalise the market by having more market players to serve the seed growers as well as offering more products for the farmers.
She urged Seed Co to work closely with the farmers.