Kenya's agricultural sector has been rocked by a scandal involving substandard fertiliser supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) by a Kenyan-based regional fertiliser merchant, SBL-Innovate Manufacturer Limited.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) accused the firm of fraud after it emerged that the company had supplied a product labelled "BL-GPC" as organic fertiliser for over a year without detection.

Documents presented to the National Assembly Agriculture Committee revealed this concerning practice.

According to KEBS Managing Director Esther Ngari, SBL-Innovate Manufacturer initially obtained certification by complying with all requirements in January 2023.

However, the firm allegedly later committed fraud by supplying diatomite, a substance containing silica for soil improvement, instead of the promised organic fertiliser.

"Our surveillance identified the product being sold in stores, and a tip-off led us to discover its presence in NCPB stores. Testing confirmed the product failed the organic matter content test," stated Ngari.

This raises serious concerns, as farmers unknowingly purchased the product with KEBS certification for months.

KEBS initiated an investigation after receiving public information and seized 5,840 bags during a raid.

The discovery prompted NCPB to sample the product in over 59 storage facilities nationwide, leading to the suspension of the product's permits.

However, concerns remain as the product might still be circulating.

"We haven't received any communication from NCPB regarding this specific product despite their distribution," Ngari revealed.

The incident's effectiveness of KEBS's surveillance system has been called into question.

Tigania West MP John Mutunga, who chairs the committee, highlighted this issue.

"How frequent is your surveillance? What impact will this have on farmers who used this product on their crops?"

Mutunga inquired. He further emphasized the need for transparency regarding the frequency of counterfeit product checks.

Soy MP David Kiplagat questioned how NCPB outlets unknowingly distributed the fake fertiliser.

"What is the nature of the relationship between KEBS, NCPB, and SBL-Innovate? Did NCPB seek confirmation from KEBS about the product's certification before distribution?" Kiplagat posed.

KEBS confirmed initiating legal proceedings against SBL Innovate Manufacturers Limited. However, the exact quantity of the potentially harmful product still in circulation remains unclear.

"We have contacted the Director of Public Prosecution to pursue legal action under the Standards Act," said Ngari.

This parliamentary probe coincides with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) seizing 700 bags of suspected fake fertiliser containing stones in Kakamega, highlighting a wider issue within the Kenyan agricultural sector.