Linturi told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday that the fertiliser, which was distributed across the country through the government’s National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores, only fell short of the approved nutrient composition ratio.

The agriculture minister pushed against the committee calling the fertiliser fake; he insisted that they call it substandard.

“The agreed standard of the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium percentage is what went short of the agreed standards. That does not mean that the fertiliser was completely useless or fake,” Linturi told senators.

Fertiliser’s N-P-K ratio indicates the proportion of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) plant nutrients. The N-P-K numbers reflect each nutrient’s percentage by weight.

According to CS Linturi whom the committee accused of “playing cat and mouse games”, the product under probe did not meet the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) specifications of the percentage of each nutrient in NPK fertiliser.

“If the required standard is 26 (per cent) and we have 24, there is only a deficit of two per cent, the other three and the other seven per cent,” he said.

“Just like the standard of bread in the country is 500 grams, when you produce bread that is 450 or 480 grams, it does not mean the bread is fake; it is just substandard.”

The ongoing probe is in the wake of a documentary by African Uncensored titled ‘Fertile Deception’, which lifted the lid on the widespread circulation of counterfeit government fertiliser across the country posing a risk to food security.

Linturi has however maintained that government fertilisers were tested and approved before circulation to farmers.

So far, NCPB has banned NPK 10:26:10 fertilisers manufactured by Ken Chemicals Limited and KEL Chemicals’ Kelphos Plus, Kelphos Gold and NPK 10:26:10 for not meeting KEBS standards.

Another manufacturer, SBL Innovate Manufacturers Limited was also put under watch.

Eight KEBS officials have meanwhile since been suspended in connection to the scandal after being interdicted over the issuance of certification and marks of quality to two companies linked to the fertiliser.

By Fred Azelwa.