By Julius Luwemba
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), through its department of crop inspection and certification, has disposed of 90 tonnes of counterfeit agro inputs, worth sh2b.
The assorted agro inputs, which had been kept at the department stores in Namalele, Wakiso district, were on Friday taken to Nakasongola Army Barracks for safe disposal.
Fred Muzira, the agriculture inspector in the department of crop inspection and certification, said the impounded agro inputs had been collected for over seven years across the country before being kept at Namalele.
“Most of them were fake fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, seedlings, among others,” he noted.
As to why there was delayed disposal of the impounded goods, Muzira said it was due to a slow court process, where the confiscated merchandise had to be used as exhibits, among other supporting evidence to prosecute the culprits.
So far, 10 people are reported to have been prosecuted and awarded punishments by courts of law. Other cases are still going on.
Dr Tutilo Mudumba, a lecturer at Makerere University, is one such large-scale farmer in Butaleja district, who suffered the effects of fake products after purchasing a bulk of agro inputs for his 20-acre maize garden and they turned out to be fake.
“I had purchased the agro-chemicals from a well-known shop in Kampala, but they were fake. Even when I contacted them for replacement, they dodged me, saying the team that verifies would come to my farm,” Dr Mudumba testified, adding that he still has all the counterfeit tins and receipts.
Silvia Nantongo from the agro-chemicals control division, under the department of crop inspection and certification, said some of the impounded agro inputs were found to be fake, while others were expired.
The impounded goods were taken from Namalele to Nakasongola Army Barracks for incineration.
Nantongo advised that each product on the market must have a registration number issued by the agriculture ministry, short of which, it is considered illegal.
Weak laws The agriculture officials, however, decried the weak laws against people engaged in counterfeit goods.
“The current law does not give us authority to indefinitely close a shop found to be selling counterfeit products and the maximum penalty for such crimes is sh2.5m and/or imprisonment for a maximum of two years,” Nantongo said.
She, however, expressed optimism that top officials in the agriculture ministry are amending the existing laws to fill all the missing gaps.
How to tackle counterfeits Muzira said the agriculture ministry is developing a traceability system, where all agro inputs will bear digital stamps, among other features being developed.
These will help track all agro-chemical inputs up to the last stockist.
He also noted that dealers shall be required to file returns stating the remaining stock against the quantity imported or produced earlier.
“Together with the directorate of government analytical laboratories, the agriculture ministry is finalising a Memorandum of Understanding, where samples of every consignment shall be tested,” Muzira revealed.
Extension workers at the district are being rallied to carry out local monitoring and file periodic reports, as well as establishing a committee of senior zonal inspectors, who will be sensitising, as well as keeping direct contact with the farmers.
How to tell fake agro inputs
Silvia Nantongo from the agro-chemicals control division under the department of crop inspection and certification, says dealers ought to have an authentic label approved by the agro-chemicals board under the agriculture ministry, as well as features like the batch numbers and intact seals.
Expired products are also automatically impounded. She further noted that even products which could have been repackaged after importation, are considered fake.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report for 2019 indicates that about 3.3% of goods traded globally are counterfeits.
“Therefore, the situation is not peculiar to MAAIF, but a global phenomenon,” Nantongo acknowledged.