By Joshua Kato & Prossy Nandudu
KAMPALA - The name Container Village in Kampala downtown rings an instant bell to every farmer who buys farm inputs.
The place is no longer full of the containers from which the name was derived. They were removed several years ago and replaced with a shopping mall owned by one of Kampala’s property moguls. However, although the building structure changed, the business never changed.
“This is an agro-inputs one-stop centre,” says Edward Ssentamu, a trader.
In addition to the mall, other buildings across and as far as Ben Kiwanuka street, covering an area of over 1,000 square metres, are packed with agro-inputs.
Hundreds of dealers
One would expect big companies to shun Container Village because of its relationship with fake farm inputs, but this is not the case.
“Almost every major company dealing in farm inputs has got an outlet here,” Ssentamu says.
A director of one of the leading seed producers said they have a shop at Container Village because most farmers think that that is where they must buy farm inputs.
He, however, said almost 80% of the shops at the ‘village’ are not registered to deal in agro-inputs.
Dealers often sell anything counterfeited, doctored or adulterated. In addition, they also sell pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that have long been banned.
According to John Mwanja, who is in charge of pesticide inspection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF), every dealer in farm chemicals, plus the chemicals they deal in must be registered, as stipulated in the Agricultural Chemical Control Act 2006.
The registration process was purposely made long and stringent to block any loophole. The dealer must possess a valid registration certificate, have adequate facilities for storage and enough equipment to check the chemicals.
Additionally, he or she must have adequate qualified personnel with marketing skills and understand the product to provide sufficient technical support, backed up by full stewardship to field level.
“He must also retain an active interest in following their products to the end user, keeping track of major uses and the occurrence of any problems arising from the use of their product,” Mwanja says.
At Container Village, many operate without meeting these regulations. Ssentamu says: “It is the Ugandan way. It is money that works.”
The law requires that dealers in farm inputs undergo mandatory training in safe use, conducted by Makerere University.
After a report is made to the board about this person, he or she pays sh150,000 for a certificate that is valid for two years. Makerere University is still carrying out training for investors in the agro-inputs sector, through a request by MAAIF.
“Few of them have received training for this job. Many are working in these shops because they are related to the owner and not because they are qualified to do so,” says another agro-dealer.
After being certified, one has to acquire an import certificate.
One’s application for the certificate should bear a name, title and place of business of applicant, name and address of manufacturers of the products he or she intends to import, trade name and registration number of the product, quantity and pack size of products and appropriate date of entry of product.
The company applies for an import certificate every time they want to register a product. The license to import a specific pesticide is valid for three months.
Furadan 5G, a farm chemical recalled in 2009, can still easily be got it in Kampala shops
How is a pesticide registered?
Before any agricultural chemical is to be imported in Uganda, it must be registered by the Agricultural Chemicals Board (ACB), which registers all agricultural chemicals.
Before the registration, details about the chemical that must include manufacturer, country of origin, distributor’s address, composition, toxicology data, reports of efficacy trials, environmental effects of the product.
Three sample copies of the label accompanying the pesticide in English, a certificate of analysis, a statement showing other countries in which the product is registered, a statement of the proposed packaging materials and copy of the label, a statement specifying the crops/pests to be covered, application rate (dosage) and re-entry and pre-harvest periods including established maximum residue levels on these crops.
A test of the product, for which the importer pays sh2m must be done and after assessment of the test report, the chemical may be accepted for importation.
“Of course, some of them carry out the tests, but after getting a product certified and licensed, they import and duplicate it to make more profits,” Ssentamu says.
Chemical must be inspected
This is where stringent border controls are important. The law says that all imported agro-chemicals have to be inspected and any chemical imported from a source other than registered in the registration certificate shall not be cleared, but shall be re-exported at the risk and expense of the importer.
However, because many importers do not have import licenses, they instead smuggle the chemicals into the country.
Both MAAIF and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) have officials at border points who are supposed to carry out these inspections.
Mwanja says the Ministry of Agriculture has positioned inspectors at all border points to monitor and clear all agro-chemicals entering the country.
These inspectors look out for banned chemicals, expired chemicals and those without proper documentation. Agriculture inspectors also make sure the importing company is registered by the ACB.
“If the importer and the imported chemicals do not meet the requirements, the chemical is sent back to where it came from,” Mwanja says.
Cancellation of permit
Abrupt inspections are also carried out with support from Police who sometimes effect arrests because the Act does not give agrochemical inspectors the right to arrest people.
The presence of security officers is also crucial in protecting the inspectors and the property of the suspects.
Ssentamu, however, says that agro-chemical dealers usually get tip-offs about impending police inspections and they remove any condemned materials from the shelves before the law enforcement officers arrive.
Mwanja adds that an acute shortage of inspectors and vehicles makes it difficult for the agriculture ministry to traverse the whole country to check for fake, banned and counterfeited agro-chemicals.
Challenge: Policing the borders
Many contraband agro-chemicals come into Uganda through her porous borders. Ideally, the borders are meant to be inspected every month, but currently inspections are carried out every quarter or whenever complaints arise from the public.
The agriculture ministry blames this on the lack of sufficient resources. Uganda has over 100 border entry points, yet less than 20 MAAIF staff are tasked with border control.
This story was supported by the African Centre for Media Excellence
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