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Acute shortage of dwarf coconut variety seedlings hits coastal region

coconut seedlings

Roughly six months after Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) launched a new high yielding fast-maturing dwarf coconut variety for Kenyan Coast farmers, the growers are reporting lack of the variety’s seedlings affecting their planting plans.

Mwinyi Amir Bendera, 59, has been a certified seedling producer in Kwale by KEPHIS and he has been raising the planting materials since 2010. His nursery which used to have both tall and dwarf varieties of coconut is now having not a single seedling of the newly introduced type.

“In the past one month I have been receiving over five calls a week from farmers in the region who are looking for the seedling, but currently I have none. I only have the nuts which are in their initial stages of germination with an expectation that they will be ready in three months,” said Mwinyi.

The dwarf variety takes about three years to mature and produces 250 – 300 nuts annually as opposed to the tall variety which takes five to seven years and produces an average of 100 nuts annually.

Early this year about 5,000 seed nuts had been brought into Kenya from India in December 2018 and planted in a quarantine site under KEPHIS supervision at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Matuga in Kwale County with the view of multiplying them to farmers.

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Maimuna Mwidau is a leader of a network of women farmers and entrepreneurs in the region and beyond. She says that he has in the past one month received orders of 400 seedlings from some women farmers in the region but has not been able to help out because of the shortage.

I have been looking for these seedlings from both government institutions and individual seedling producers with no avail. There are even some farmers who are ready to pay for import but stringent regulations put them off,” said Maimuna.

The process of importing the hybrids started in 2017 when officials from KEPHIS conducted a pest risk analysis on hybrid coconuts from India to determine the phytosanitary (plant health) risks associated with the importation of seed nuts and the subsequent management measures to be put in place.

The coconut sub-sector contributes an estimated 1.5 per cent to the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 0.4 per cent of Kenya’s GDP. Coconuts are known to be the source of more than 120 products which support livelihood in nutrition, housing, and health. In 2017, Kenya produced 124,000 tonnes of coconuts according to the Economic Survey 2018 report.

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