Companies in Self-Regulation as Fake Seeds Flood Market

3372 Views Nalweyo, Uganda

In short
Seed production companies have come up with innovations to fight counterfeits that have infiltrated the market as Government fails to regulate the industry.

Seed production companies have come up with innovations to fight counterfeits that have infiltrated the market as Government fails to regulate the industry.
There are over 30 registered seed companies in Uganda although majority of them lack capacity to produce internationally-certified seed varieties.
Some of the biggest seed companies in Uganda are Nalwayo Seed Company - NASECO, Farm Input Care Centre - FICA Seeds, Pearl Seeds Uganda Limited, Equator Seeds, Masindi Seeds, MISECO Seeds and Simba Seeds among others.
They are involved in seed production of different varieties such as maize hybrids, beans, sorghum, soya bean, sunflower and groundnuts among other seeds. Seed is regarded as a National Security in Uganda since it is the source of food security for Ugandans.
Despite this, however, a recent study by Harvard and Stockholm universities found that 50% of seeds on Ugandan market don't meet international standards.
Researchers from these universities conducted trials on seed hybrids and fertilizers on Ugandan market and found that dealers were mixing grain and seed before rolling it out onto the market, where majority of farmers cannot differentiate   between the two.
The research conducted in 2014 showed that some seed companies in Uganda were mixing 50% of grain and 50% of seeds before offloading onto the market.
This according to researchers is contributing to poor yields from maize hybrids compared to others countries.
This is what prompted some seed companies to come up with an innovation called AgVerify Application platform to get rid of fake seeds. This platform has been embraced by at least six of the 30 registered seed breeding companies.
Robert Katende, the Operations Manager AgVerify, says they introduced this platform to bridge the gap between seed companies and farmers. The platform helps to verify the authenticity of the seed on the market.
AgVerify works in such way that every pack of the seed comes with a scratch number which you fill in using your phone with the application and it will show you the facts about the seed you are buying from a different dealer.
 It will show the seed company names, the type of variety, the farm from where it was bred, and the dates of seed production among others. If the seed doesn't show any of those features, it will be a confirmation that the particular seed a farmer is buying is counterfeit or fake.
National Seed Certification Services is supposed to monitor, inspect and certify all seeds before they are rolled out on the Ugandan market.
Katende says since AgVerify works to complement Government, they want the Ministry of Agriculture to certify them to ensure they regulate the seed sector and rid it of fake seeds.
He claims that at least 50,000 metric tonnes of seeds on Ugandan market are not authentic.
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NASECO Seeds, FICA seeds and Pearl Seeds are some of the companies that are subscribing to this platform to ensure good quality seeds are given to farmers. They say their seeds are counterfeited using their packaging materials.
Nicolai Rodennys, the Managing Director of NASECO has told Members of Parliament sitting on Agriculture Committee who are currently evaluating seed companies that NASECO products are counterfeited using packaging materials.
He explained to the committee at the seed breeding and processing plant at Nalweyo in Hoima, that after observing their good quality seeds, some firms use their packaging materials to pack fake seeds. He however says they have trained special extension workers to ensure NASECO seeds are not counterfeited.
Cliff Richard Masagazi, the Managing Director of Pearl Seeds Ltd, asked government to ensure those counterfeiting seeds are penalised.
He says much as Seed Companies are moving to minimize contamination of seeds, some companies that want to invest in seed production are contaminating their seeds.
Masagazi wants National Seed Certification Services to crack the whip of those involved in faking their seeds because seed companies don't have the capacity to do so.
Lt. Sam Nkeera, the Commander of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in Greater Luweero region says that security has observed that some of the packaging materials lack security features, which makes it easy for fake companies to package fake seeds.
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The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture observed that some seed companies are operating below standards. Some of them apart from NASECO and FICA Seeds depend on out-growers who supply them with seeds.
MP Robert Migadde, the Vice Chairperson of the committee said their evaluation and monitoring which started last month shows that some of the seed companies don't have own nucleus seed gardens.
He says without own gardens where strict production of seeds is observed, farmers face a risk of getting poor quality seeds.
According to Migadde, the danger of relying on out-growers is that neighbouring farmers can contaminate the seeds by growing similar crops close to the gardens.


About the author

Edward Bindhe
Bindhe prides himself on being a part of the society he writes about. He believes there is no way a journalist can understand his society unless it considers him a part of it. This is why he is dedicated to investigating the challenges of the "little person."

Bindhe says, "My work reflects the Uganda Radio Network unique approach to news." Not many Ugandan journalists would consider or even notice the re-emergence of Water Hyacinth on a lake. Bindhe does.

Truant children will attract Bindhe's attention until he gets to the bottom of their truancy: poverty and the need to work to earn bread for their families. These are the kinds of stories Bindhe is often after.

Edward Bindhe is the Masaka URN bureau chief. Rakai, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kalangala, Mpigi, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi and Sembabule districts fall under his docket. He has been a URN staff member since 2009.

A Mass Communication graduate from Uganda Christian University, Bindhe started practising journalism in 2008 as a reporter for Radio Buddu in Masaka district.