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Govt to procure scanners to detect fake agric inputs

By Martin Kitubi

Added 17th September 2020 07:50 PM

Inputs deemed unfit for the market will be blocked at entry and the importer will be suspended indefinitely

Govt to procure scanners to detect fake agric inputs

Ssempijja briefing journalists at the Media Centre in Kampala. Photo by Shamim Saad

Inputs deemed unfit for the market will be blocked at entry and the importer will be suspended indefinitely

All imported agricultural inputs imports will be passed through gamma-ray scanners at all points of entry, authorities have revealed.

Inputs deemed unfit for the market will be blocked at that point and, subsequently, the importer will be suspended indefinitely.

According to the agriculture ministry, importation of agricultural inputs will be limited to just a handful of people, and just those dealing in genuine products.

These measures are part of the new plans by the agricultural ministry, intended to curb the distribution of fake agricultural fertilisers, seeds and pesticides. Farmers lose millions of shillings annually due to poor yields as a result of using fake inputs on the market.

How the technology works

Vincent Ssempijja, the agriculture minister, said they are in the final stages of procuring contractors who will setup gamma-ray scanners at both the airports and border points for that purpose.

The minister made the remarks yesterday in an interview with New Vision, just after addressing journalists on the second cropping season at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala.

Ssempijja said the procurement and installation of scanners will cost an estimated $28m (about sh103b).

"Counterfeits have greatly affected us on the international market. Our produce has received a red flag and it is hurting the sector. We hope that when we introduce this technology, we will weed out the wrong characters," he said.

The scanners, he said, will be linked to other existing inspection systems used by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and that used by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

This will enable tracking of the consignments, both from the country of origin, through the ports and to the final customer.

Once the consignment reaches the border point, samples will not be picked like it is currently done.

Instead, the gamma-ray scanners will scan through the container and establish whether they conform to what the source company released.

"If the source companies are the trouble causers, we will also suspend them. But we know, the biggest cause of counterfeits are concocted by dealers," Ssempijja said.

According to him, the dealers change the original inputs and rebrand them after mixing counterfeits.

Much as he said that the technology will come soon, he declined to give the projected dates and the source of the funds.

He also asked farmers to always note that all quality farm inputs have a hard quality seal from the agricultural ministry. Those without, he said, should not be bought.

"Every farmer should keep the container of whatever input they buy from a dealer. They should also keep receipts. Once the input fails to work, report to the sub-county extension workers who will report to the district and we will have feedback at the headquarters. Immediately, the dealer or company will be suspended," he said.

Last year, the European Union reportedly accused Uganda of exporting poor quality products and also of shipping products that presented with high contents of poorly mixed agrochemicals used to treat or preserve them.

Subsequently, the EU reportedly rejected and destroyed several consignments of agriculture exports shipped to Europe recently.

Every imported item into EU is checked to verify if it conforms to the set standards. Items that fall short of these standards are intercepted.

According to the EU, the measures are vital to protect human and animal health.

What farmers say

Grace Musimami, the publicity secretary at the Uganda National Farmers Federation, welcomed the development, but asked government to crack a whip on traders in counterfeit inputs.

"We have made this a song. We need hefty penalties on whoever is found with counterfeits. Most of these people are known and there is nothing done to them. Once counterfeits are got, they just destroy them and that's all. We should ban those people from operating in the sector," he said.

In addition, he said, the ministry should deploy input inspectors at all levels who will help farmers detect counterfeits.

Ssempijja warned that the second season of crops is expected to be short, with rains expected to stop in December. At the moment, he said, farmers would have planted as early as August. He advised farmers to plant early-maturing crops and drought-resistant ones.

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