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Fake seeds; is creation of a regulatory body the answer?

Analysis

Fake seeds; is creation of a regulatory body the answer?

Minister Ssempijja and NPA boss Joseph Muvawala

Minister Ssempijja and NPA boss Joseph Muvawala

The Executive Director of the National Planning Authority Dr. Joseph Muvawala has added to the growing criticism of the Ministry of Agriculture particularly its crop protection division for failing to play its role in ensuring that seeds sold on the market are of high quality as a way of protecting farmers against loss.

Dr. Muvawala’s comments come after he personally suffered huge losses when he planted 100 acres of maize last season but only about half of it germinated.

“I planted 100 acres of maize and got upset when only 40% of the seeds germinated, ” Muvawala narrated.

His tale is not unique after hundreds of farmers have reported serious losses arising from unviable or poor quality seed. It also captures the persistent weaknesses especially in the supervisory duty of the ministry of agriculture whose docket includes seed certification and fighting sale of counterfeit or outdated seed.

The NPA boss now argues that the seed sector needs a new government agency – in the shape of an independent regulatory body as the case is for the communications and energy sector, to supervise the critical industry.

Muvawala says: “It is the duty of government to create an enabling environment which includes creating and monitoring standards such as in the seed sector.”, He adds that this role is better played by a regulatory body.

“Leaving the seed sector unregulated leaves farmers at the mercy of unscrupulous seed dealers who have no qualms supplying fake seeds, and in essence hold the agricultural sector at ransom.” said Muvawala.

This writer has received various accounts from other farmers who have similar lamentations arising from buying of seeds that fail to germinate.

Samuel Kasumba, a fruits and vegetable farmer in Magogo village Wakiso district revealed too that he planted 4 acres of maize in 2009 but was shocked to discover that almost all the seeds failed to germinate.

“Much as the seed suppliers at the Container village [in Kampala] later on accepted to refund the money I spent to buy the seeds, they could not compensate me for other losses that I had incurred such as field preparation as well as delayed planting,”says Kasumba.

The extent of losses arising from sale of fake seeds recently came to light after the new army-driven seed distribution outfit Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) officials came under scathing criticism from farmers who complained of having been supplied with seeds that refused to germinate.

The incident sparked off a back and forth blame game that sucked in OWC, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) which procured the seeds as well as the Ministry of Agriculture whose duty is to ensure the sale of certified quality seed.

“Our work is only to procure and not to certify seeds. Why therefore should we take the blame for supplying seeds we procured from a certified seed dealer” said NAADS Executive Director Dr. Samuel Mugasi while responding to criticism on the poor germination rates manifested in their supplied seeds.

But the State Minister for Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja argues that there is no need for a new regulatory body since his ministry is already addressing the challenge.

Referring to the seeds that are going to be given to NAADS for distribution to farmers over the coming planting season for example, Ssempijja told The Sunrise that MAAIF has established a mechanism which he says will ensure the seeds meet the mandatory 97% germination rate.

“We have already started working with National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) to ensure germination tests for the planting materials to be supplied to farmers in February,” Ssempijja said.

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