By Jackson Kitara
Members of Parliament have been urged to come up with a Bill to regulate the sale of fake seeds.
According to Uganda National Agro-input Dealers Association (UNADA) director Mark Moro, many farmers are facing challenges of buying fake and counterfeit seeds that do not germinate.
“If the laws are put in place to protect the farmers, we shall endeavour to see that farmers get the right products and information,” he says.
Moro has also requested the agriculture ministry to register and license all agro-input dealers.
He says many products are on the market but they don’t know their authenticity.
He says they set up an agriculture distribution policy where any input from the producers will first register with them and go through many regulatory reports
According to him, if there is a proper production and distribution chain- of agro-inputs, getting counterfeit and fake ones will be easy.
Moro made the remarks on Saturday during a regional consultative meeting on the implementation of the national seed policy in northern Uganda at Koro Country Resort Hotel organised by SORUDA.
Nelson Masereka Sirikani, the executive director of the Uganda Seed Trade Association (USTA), said regulating fake seed is hard because Uganda is using the policy of 1935.
“Fighting counterfeit inputs needs all our collaborative efforts with enough information. In Uganda, we have only seven seed inspectors with one vehicle to inspect seeds countrywide, I advise each district to enact by-laws that regulate seeds in their districts”, he said.
Masereka said the USTA engaged the government in regulating inputs and in March 2023, the Government approved agricultural policy authority to handle issues of seeds and other inputs.
He advised farmers not to buy any seeds that do not have a blue label with a mark of USTA.
“We need to be vigilant to protect the farmers because they lack information, don’t know what seed they want to buy, which variety of seed they want need,” Masereka remarked.
Poor handling of seeds
Masereka, however, blamed farmers for poor handling of seeds after buying. He said seeds are living organisms, citing that you can buy a good seed from agro-input dealers, but due to poor storage, it will spoil.
Ochepa Peter Ekiru, the executive director of SORUDA, called upon the district leaders to handle seeds well to address issues of poor quality seeds.
“We want our smallholder farmers to buy quality seeds so that they move away from subsistence agriculture to a money economy,” he said.
Ochepa said local governments should improve on the monitoring of seeds and embrace the awareness of the national seed policy among stakeholders.
Patrick Muwenda Agaba, the Lamwo district production officer, said they have clustered farmers as local seed business groups, producing quality declared seeds with high yields.
“We are using the district farm association to advocate and raise awareness on the counterfeit inputs. We also decided that for any seed that NGOs supporting refugees at Palabek refugee settlement want to give out, we must first do a germination test before giving out to farmers,” he said.
Christopher Opiyo Ateker, Gulu district LC5 chairperson, said the Government is not controlling agro-input dealers which is why fake and counterfeit seeds are in the markets.
“Agricultural extension workers need to take their work seriously, the Government pays them well, but their work to help farmers is not seen,” Opiyo said.
Omoro district chairperson Peter Douglas Okello said the Government should establish farmers’ seed schools as demonstration gardens for testing seeds to help farmers identify the best seeds.
He said production officers need to establish village seed banks to store good quality seed.
Lamwo Resident District Commissioner Geoffrey Osborn Oceng said he lost shillings 2.7 million after he bought maize seed and planted it on 90 acres, but it didn’t germinate
“We need to sensitise farmers to buy seeds from certified agro-input dealers,” he said.
Dominic Idro, the director of Capable International, an organisation that supports farmers in Omoro, Nwoya and Lamwo, said the policy in place is ineffective.