Counterfeits Disrupt Uganda’s Agrichemicals Market

The outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in East Africa in late 2016, particularly in landlocked Uganda, and the rush by government to prescribe two pesticide combinations to counter the spread of the pest, helped illustrate the region’s counterfeit agrichemicals problem.

Ugandan farmers complained in early April 2017 the prescribed pesticides were hard to access and unscrupulous dealers were selling counterfeit chemicals hampering their efforts war against the pest.

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“The recommended chemicals are not easily available and what some outlets are selling are counterfeit pesticides,” said Patrick Matovu, a farmer in Luweero District.

The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries has recommended the use of a pesticide combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin (106g/l) and Thiamethoxam (141g/l) also called Striker 247SCSC or Engeo K 247 SC and also Profenofos 40% + cypermethrin 4% or Rocket 44EC at a rate of 20-50 mls in 15-20 liters of water.

However, Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said the use of the two pesticides is an emergency measure since Uganda “is exploring more sustainable management measures. Research is ongoing to establish long-term effective and robust control measures of the pest,” he told media in April.

Uganda estimates yield loss of 15% to 75% that translates to at least 450 metric tons of maize valued at $192 million.

Although the director of crop resources at Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Opolot Okasai, says the complaints of counterfeit pesticides for controlling the fall armyworm are being investigated, recent studies have shown counterfeit agrichemicals in Uganda have several causes each calling for a unique approach in helping salvage the country’s crop protection segment.

In maize-growing districts where the two pesticides have been used according to guidelines provided by the Ministry of Agriculture “the maize crops are recovering,” Okasai said. The implication is that failure to comply with guidelines on use contributed to or caused the ineffective outcome.

In March 2017, Uganda set aside $2.3 million from the national treasury in support of the fight against the pest. Part of the funds was for procuring the two emergency pesticide combinations, purchase of light, and pheromone traps for pest surveillance, procuring motorized pumps, and mobilization of communities to carry out the agreed control measures.

Sale of counterfeit pesticide complicates the war on the fall armyworm as the pest is likely to develop resistance and wreak havoc in the country produces nearly 4 million metric tons of maize annually.

Croplife Africa and Middle East lists Uganda as a counterfeit and illegal pesticide hotspot alongside Egypt, West Africa, and Tanzania although the counterfeit problem cuts across the African market with a pesticide market value of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Uganda’s Anti-Counterfeit Network says suppliers and dealers in genuine agrichemicals and farm inputs have gone out of business because of increasing volumes of counterfeits in the market.

Uganda has an estimated 2,600 agro-dealers with only 50% of them being registered through Uganda Agro-input Dealers Association, the national apex organization for all agro-input dealers in both rural and urban areas of Uganda.

Uganda, which has a crop protection market value of about $30 million, is grappling with delayed passage of the counterfeit bill that is held back because of disputes over its inclusivity and enforcement.

Uganda’s Minister of State for Trade Michael Werikhe says the counterfeit bill focuses on both imported and locally produced products.

“The bill is not only talking about externally sourced products only but also that products manufactured in Uganda should be genuine and imitations should be banished from the market,” he said.

But the problem, according to Everest Kayondo, chairman of Kampala Capital City Traders Association, is the counterfeit bill leaves out substandard products. “We need a law that addresses both counterfeits and substandard products,” he said.

In April 2017, Uganda’s Anti-Counterfeit Network said the country has existing laws on dealing with counterfeits but the enforcement is weak.

“The challenge is that the punishments were not stringent enough: this is why we need the bill passed because the punishment under the penal code Act 1950, are not so severe,” says says Fred Muwema, Legal and Corporate Director at the Anti-Counterfeit Network.

A draft report prepared for Bill and Melinda Gates in collaboration with Monitor Deloitte said counterfeiting in Uganda is also prevalent within herbicides.

The report identified mislabeling, label reuse, and label imitation as the main types of counterfeiting within Uganda’s agrochemicals industry.