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The East African : Sep 15th 2014
30 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK SEPTEMBER 13-19,2014 D E VE LO PME N T Currently Uganda relies on three laws — Control of AgroChemical Act 2006, Seed and Plant Act of 2006 and Plant Protection Act of 1962 — with little effect on counterfeits. Whereas the Seed and Plant Act 2006 stipulates that a person selling a substandard or fake seed commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding Ush500,000 ($190) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or both, the Plant Protection Act of 1962 imposes Ush2,000 ($0.76) as fine for selling counterfeit seeds. On the other hand, the Control of Agro-Chemical Act 2006 deals more on regulating sale of agriculture chemicals but is silent on penalties. This has encouraged unscru- Many farmers rely on seeds saved from the previous season’s harvest or traded informally for fear of purchasing counterfeits, even as such seeds generally produce far lower yields than genuine high yield hybrids. Picture: File Unchecked trade in fake agro inputs blamed for low yields, poor profits Uganda ≥elies on Cont≥ol of Ag≥o-Chemical Act, Seed and Plant Act and Plant P≥otection Act of 1962 with little e≠ect on counte≥feits By ISAAC KHISA The EastAfrican F or 12 years, Arthur Nsubuga was a successful poultry farmer in Mukono District, 25 kilometres east of Kampala. But in the past one year, he has seen a reversal of fortunes, suffering a sudden dip in production. Whereas he could previously achieve a laying rate as high as 96 per cent in birds aged between 33 and 44 weeks, he recorded between 65-70 per cent last year. Mr Nsubuga blames his and other farmers’ woes on the proliferation of counterfeit feeds and other agro-inputs in the Ugandan market. “When we carried out an analysis of the feeds, we discovered that it contained only 20 per cent of the nutrients required for the birds. At the same time, some birds were dying even when we had vaccinated them at the right age,” Mr Nsubuga said. According to the Interna- tional Fertiliser Development Centre, counterfeit agriculture inputs currently account for 30 per cent of agro sales in sub-Saharan Africa, where law enforcement agencies, ministries of agriculture and the private sector have not made any headway in combating the vice. Dr Grace Abalo, the national project co-ordinator for Uganda for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa under the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technologies, said that counterfeit farm inputs such as seeds have been exacerbated by seed companies that have mastered the art of supplying grain to farmers instead of seeds resulting in poor yields or not germinating at all, a claim seed companies deny. “We have been taking our own “What this country needs now is to pass those laws in line with the agriculture sector.” Dr Fred Mukulu, Mukono District production and marketing officer measures like random inspection of our seed dealers to ensure that the seeds in their stocks are of good quality to our farmers. We are planning to start using everification technology next year to identify genuine and counterfeit seeds,” Richard Musagazi, the chairman of Uganda Seed Traders Association told The EastAfrican. Mr Musagazi blames the gov- ernment for counterfeit farm inputs, saying it lacks staff to track down unscrupulous traders. This, Dr Abalo said, coupled with unpredictable weather changes have ensured that farmers have little to eat, and discourages the population from commercial farming. Statistics from Uganda’s Min- istry of Agriculture, Animal, Industry and Fisheries shows that the country’s demand for seeds stands at 35,000 tonnes but the 25 seed companies produce only 12,000 tonnes of seeds, with maize accounting for over 60 per cent. This has left majority of the farmers to rely on seeds carried forward from the previous WEAK LAWS Incidence of counterfeit agrochemicals have remained high, at 40 per cent, for the agrochemical imports in Uganda and Tanzania and between 15-20 per cent in Kenya In Uganda, whereas the Seed and Plant Act 2006 stipulates that a person selling a substandard or fake seed commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding seasons or traded informally for fear of purchasing counterfeits, even as such seeds generally produce far lower yields than genuine high yield hybrids. Incidence of counterfeit agro- chemicals have remained high, at 40 per cent, for the agrochemical imports in Uganda and Tanzania and between 15-20 per cent in Kenya, according to CropLife Uganda, an association of agro-chemical importers. These counterfeits are cost- ing farmers billions of shillings in losses, said Crop Life Uganda chief executive Betty Atto. According to Uganda’s Na- tional Budget 2014/15, the country’s agriculture sector employs 70 per cent of the estimated 34 million people but contributes about 21 per cent to the gross domestic product, with its annual growth figure stagnated at three per cent for the past two years. Uganda’s former agriculture minister Victoria Sekitoleko now wants relevant laws currently pending in parliament passed so as to streamline the sector to Ush500,000 ($190) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or both, the Plant Protection Act of 1962 imposes Ush2,000 ($0.76) as fine for selling counterfeit seeds. On the other hand, the Control of Agro-Chemical Act 2006 deals more on regulating sale of agriculture chemicals but is silent on penalties. make it more productive to address issues of food security and source of livelihood. “What this country needs now is to pass those laws in line with the agriculture sector,” Ms. Ssekitoleko said. For example, the Plant Pro- tection and Health Bill 2010 that was tabled by then agriculture minister Hope Mwesigye, is still pending in parliament. The Bill covers phytosanitary issues, seed health analysis, disease and pest surveillance, quarantine issues, and the movement of seed and planting materials. The Biotechnology and Bi- osafety Bill 2010, which aims at regulating and controlling the application of biotechnology products (including transborder movement of germplasm), ensure value for money, and improve biosafety for people and the environment is still before parliament. The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy was approved and adopted by the Cabinet in April 2008. pulous traders to involve in selling counterfeit farm inputs because the penalties are low once convicted in courts of law, Dr. Fred Mukulu, the Mukono District production and marketing officer said. “We’re proposing that some fines should be custodial; somebody must be jailed for one year or a high fine of more than Ush2 million ($755) to deter traders from selling counterfeits to farmers,” Dr Mukulu said. Ms Sylvia Kirabo, the spokes- person for the Uganda Bureau of Standards told The EastAfrican that fighting counterfeits in the agriculture sector lies with the ministry. “Our work as UNBS is to de- velop standards to be enforced by the line ministries — in this case, Agriculture Ministry,” Ms. Kirabo said. Ms Kirabo said UNBS is only fighting counterfeit fertilisers that enter the country through their Pre-inspection Verification of Conformity programme. Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Connie Achayo argued that it is the responsibility of every stakeholder in the sector to fight the vice. “I also admit that we are very thin on the ground but the farmers rarely report to us on where they bought counterfeit seeds, chemicals, and this makes our work difficult,” Ms Achayo said. However, things are looking up with the government recruting more people to inspect seed producers. “We have recruited 23 people to deal with the inspection and certification of seeds. We are soon going to attach at least one person to each seed producing company to monitor their seed trade, from their farms to the market,” said Dr Robert Karyeija, commissioner in charge of seed inspection and certification in the Ministry of Agriculture. Dr Karyeija said whereas the ministry is also in talks with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to establish an agriculture police responsible for arresting those involved in selling counterfeit seeds, it also plans to relicence all the seed companies as a measure to streamline the seed sector.
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