With rise in demand for farm inputs, many people are venturing into the agrovet business.
The shops are among the most popular in various towns enabling farmers to easily access animal feeds, drugs and pesticides.
However, experts note that while the impression is that it is easy to start and run an agrovet, the business has many demands that many people fail to meet.
Jared Mutai, the Assistant Director of Agriculture in Nandi County, says the law requires that the shops be run by trained personnel.
The owners, according to him, must employ people who are trained in plant and animal health. The employees should be registered with professional bodies like Kenya Veterinary Board.
He regrets that most agrovets employ unqualified staff yet they dispense chemicals and drugs to farmers.
“Due to the problem, we normally advise farmers to engage extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture who will recommend chemicals or seeds they need before visiting the agrovets, where they can be sold inputs that will make them incur losses.”
The agrovets, particularly those dealing in pesticides and animal feeds, should have cool conditions and they should not be located near a food premise or a supermarket to ensure safety of people.
“The agrovet should be a member of an association involving the business to ensure that ethics and standards in the field are observed,” offers Mutai.
He notes that managing finances is one of the greatest challenges facing the businesses but there are bodies that train the stockists on management.
“Once the body accredits them, the banks will have confidence in giving them loans with terms that favour their business. Agricultural Marketing Information Network (Agmark), an NGO is one that offers such services.”
He advises that the agrovet should have an extension section that educates farmers on various issues, like pest control or crop rotation.
Felix Opinya, an agricultural researcher at Egerton University Department of Animal Sciences, says that though the agrovet business is lucrative, it is critical that it is run professionally to ensure safety.
He warns that injectibles like Adamycin, an antibiotic, and Pen and Atrep, a pennysilin, should not be exposed to sunlight since it reduces their effectiveness.
Vaccines should always be put under refrigeration for the same reason.
“Unfortunately, some agrovets sell poorly stored products to unsuspecting customers but once they note the problem, you lose trust. It is good practice to always be fair and sell genuine products if you are to survive in the business,” Opinya says.
He notes that movement of rodents and other pests should be prevented from where there are feeds.
“Animal feeds should be separated from chemicals to avoid contamination. To further control contamination, shelves should be set aside for specific products and expiry of goods be checked regularly.”
Seeds and fertilisers should not be in contact with the ground as they absorb moisture occasioning afflatoxin.
“Fertiliser should be kept away from sunlight because some are highly volatile. Caked fertilisers should never be sold to customers,” he declares.
To avoid stocking fake goods, agrovets should source feeds from a wholesaler that is certified by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), he advises.
Also, preservatives used on cereals and other human food should be separated from other chemicals since when consumed, they are absorbed directly into the blood system and can be lethal.
To open an agrovet, one has to have a business permit which is given by the county government after inspection done alongside bodies like Kephis and Kenya Veterinary Board.
Opinya says an agrovet should display its certifications to give customers confidence.