Agrovets are key in the agriculture value chain because they not only enable farmers to access inputs, they also fill agro-extension gaps.
The shops are the first point of call for farmers in case they have problems.
This has, therefore, made them go beyond being a place where farmers can purchase agricultural and veterinary products such as seeds, pesticides, organic manure, fertilisers, vaccines and drugs.
At the shops, farmers are offered advice on how to use products and the best chemicals or drugs in the market. And that is not all, most agrovets are customer-friendly as they sell feeds and drugs in smaller quantities.
Last week, I visited a few agrovets to get a feel of what happens there and how farmers are served. To begin with, there is a lot of good and bad agro-extension advice being given at the agrovets as extension officers have become hard to come by.
A farmer walks in holding a tomato plant affected by Tuta absoluta and requests for a chemical to control it. This is the ideal way of doing things as the agro-dealers diagnose the problem and offer a solution.
Well, while this works most of the time, my research revealed that some farmers visit agrovets with a fixed mindset, asking for a particular product that they use despite questionable effectiveness. At one of the agrovets, a tomato farmer insisted on using a particular chemical because “it worked last time”.
A number of farmers do not follow the recommended instructions on chemicals, leading to disease persistence or the pest developing resistance. As a rule of thumb, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
COUNTERFEIT OR EXPIRED PRODUCTS
Some agro-dealers sometimes visit customers’ farms to scout for pests and diseases and advise them accordingly.
Alternatively, they request for pictures that are sent through WhatsApp, which helps them to diagnose the problem and offer solution. A farmer who does not have a smartphone cannot enjoy such services.
However, while the personnel at the agrovets can perform certain tasks, seek professional help especially when dealing with veterinary issues.
This is because not all those employed at agro-shops have the knowledge on what you may need. In search of higher profits, some agro-shop owners employ quacks to cut the costs. These people mislead farmers leading to losses.
To make more cash, agrovets sell products depending on the amount of money a farmer has. This means one may not buy full dosage of a particular drug or required quantity of an input. Such practices hurt farmers in the long run.
Some agrovets also sell counterfeit or expired products like seeds or fertilisers. Therefore, always check the date of expiry of a product before buying it.
That said, all agrovets must have a business permit after inspection is done by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and Pest Control Products Board in case of crop products and Kenya Veterinary Board for animal products. The law requires that the shop is run by trained personnel to ensure safety and proper sale of the products.
As a farmer, it’s important to look out for the licences, which should be displayed in the shops.
For the agro-dealers, products such as seeds or fertilisers should be sourced from wholesalers certified by Kephis. The products should be stocked on customer demand to avoid expiry while still on the shelves.
Agrovets should not be located near food outlets to prevent cases of poisoning and animal feeds should be separated from chemicals. Vaccines should always be placed in fridges for them to be effective.