Agricultural and legal experts have called for tougher laws and penalties as well as strict enforcement if the Government is to get rid of the perpetrators of fake agro-inputs and other counterfeits in the country.
They also called for the collaboration of all stakeholders, especially law enforcers to effectively fight against counterfeits.
Speaking during the agro-input counterfeit training workshop at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Friday, the Chief Executive Officer, of CropLife Uganda, Solomon Seruwo, noted that the collaboration among the various institutions mandated to fight counterfeits remains a big challenge, thus leaving a gap for the perpetrators.
The training was organised by Anti-Counterfeit Network (ACN) supported under USAID Feed the Future Activity.
It was attended by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal and Fisheries (MAAIF) officials, police, agriculture experts, judicial officials, farmers, and agro-input dealers among others.
Seruwo cited institutions like the agricultural police, MAAIF, Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), and the National Drug Authority (NDA), which he said were all working in isolation.
“The people who are supposed to collaborate are divided, yet the counterfeit dealers are collaborating well. Our institutions chose to fight more for mandate rather than achieving the objective. They forget that counterfeits affect them and their children too, and that is why there is need for collaboration,” he added.
A recent survey by ACN, on counterfeit agro-inputs indicates that 50% seeds on the market a fake.
The Head of the Department of Economics, Makerere University Business School (MUBs) also doubling as a consultant with ACN, Dr. Ronnet Atukunda said there is a need for police and other agencies to play their role in dealing with the perpetrators.
“If the line agencies and police arrest these people, and they tough sentences, others will find it risky. That is even when the farmers will get to know what is happening. But if people are arrested and released, it makes no sense,” she noted.
She cited an incident where a farmer lost sh9m because of fake seeds, stressing that a lot needs to be done to save the poor farmers in the countryside and the economy.
“We should handle counterfeiters as murderers because they are killing our people and our economy. They should be treated as thieves. Their actions are costing us on the international markets. Our products are barred and people are developing strange illnesses,” she added.
Fred Muzira, the Agricultural Inspector in the department of Crop Inspection and Certification at the MAAIF, said the ministry is already reviewing the laws to make them more punitive and with more fines that are deterrent and biting.
He noted that currently, someone caught counterfeiting, they are given either a fine of sh1.4m or sh2.4m, which is not enough.
Muzira also noted that the ministry is now working with the Government Analytical Laboratories (GAL) to analyze the sample of various products that come into the country.
The ACN Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Fred Muwema reechoed the need for the agricultural inspector to work closely with police and other agencies to ensure counterfeiters are arrested and brought to book.
“We have an effective process of recruitment in Uganda, but the execution is zero,” he added.
Lillian Katende one of the agro-input dealers in the container village, said there is a need for more sensitization of all agro-input dealers to understand the dangers of counterfeits.
“Some might be dealing in counterfeits deliberately not knowing that at the end of the day, the same products end up in their homes,” she noted.