On July 25th 2009, I was together with NARO’s Mrs. Kagwa Margaret hosted by Mr. Eric Luyuyo on Jinja’s Bamboo FM for a talkshow that focussed on Agriculture. The timing was important. First, a National Agricultural trade show where farmers are expected to showcase their achivements was taking place in eastern Uganda i.e at the Source of the Nile. Second, Famine was and is still ravaging that part of the country. A myraid callers were agitated by the lesser than life situation they were faced with. However, amidst such a dire situation, listeners still could afford to sacrifice airtime to touch base with a public conversation on radio that touch thier lives. I was excited and humbled by their spirit of citizenship and their indelible hopes that famine and disease can be overcome in their part of the country. Caller after caller exhibited grief over unchecked spread of fake agricultural inputs. Many hinted at quiting farming after having borrowed money from Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) to procure better seeds, fertilizer, agri chemicals and so on hoping for better yeilds! That didnot come to pass and many are into hiding because they cannot pay their loans. This reminds me of yet another classic story of a one young farmer investor, Andrew Kikira from Rukungiri who in 2008 opened up 100 acres of land in Bwambara subcounty to tap into the lucrative rice farming and trade. He procured Agro-supernil herbicide from General and Allied Ltd, container village in Kampala. He was aware that muscle power for weeding would be time wasting and expensive. The Agro-supernil was expected to kill all the weed. This never happened. His projection was to harvest 500 bags of unhurled rice. He harvested only 80 bags! He suspended farming!! What lessons do we then learn from such breathtaking testimonies?
First, we should note that underhand profiteering tendencies of some input dealers can in the long run preside over the death and burial of the agriculture sector in Uganda. Fake chemicals have a big destructive impact on farming. If it is a pesticide, the pests will not die even when a farmer applies it regularly. If it is a herbicide, the grass will just continue growing even after the harmless chemical has been applied. Consequently, the farmer will notice a decrease in yields and adverse effects on the environment and human life. The fake chemicals accelerate soil deterioration resulting in substantial crop losses and in the larger picture, it affects economic growth.
Secondly, we are reminded of chronic failure of government and its responsible agencies to regulate and enforce starndards regime in the agriculture sector. Why should we for example have adulterated chemicals like Glyphosate, Dithane M45 or Mancozeb 80WP, Dursban 4E, Ridomil Gold MZ 68WP, Ag. Basle and Furadan and so on on the market? Why should we have adulterated fertilizer like NPK, DAP and Urea on the market? Why should farmers buy expensive seeds on the market whose germination rate is 20%. Why? What happened to agriculture inspectors in the Ministry of Animal Industry and Fisheries? What happened to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards?
Thirdly, our farmers are left at the hands of unscruplous agriculture input dealers who have managed to abuse the fevourable zero rate agriculture input tax regime in the country to exploit and cheat farmers. In 2007 the price of 50 kg NPK fertilzer bag was 45,000Ushs compared to now 140,000 in 2009. Hand hoe price shifted from 2500Ushs to now 4500Ushs in 2009! Oxplough from 125000Ushs in 2007 to 250,000 Ushs in 2009. A one day old chick has also doubled the price, from 500Ushs in 2008 to now 1000 in 2009! This madness must be arrested. Farmers need protection from these distorted markets otherwise the good action by government of removing taxes on agro-iputs will continue to only benefit private input importers and dealers at expense of farmers to whome the incentive was meant to serve in the first place.
Finally, in this foregoing chaos, even guenine agro-input dealers are going to suffer if they dont come out to work with farmers to expose those involved in distortion of inputs markets. As a Farmers Federation, we are going to open up complait desks in all our branches across the country such that dealers who sale fake inputs to our farmers are exposed and reprimanded. We are in discussions with pro farmers groups like Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment and AT- Uganda to persue a public interest litigation against fradulent agro input companies and auxilliary dealers that are increasingly becoming painful to the farmers flaternity.
Resident Consultant and Manager Policy Research and Advocacy
Uganda National Farmers Federationrwakakamba@yahoo.co.uk