“The average amount of nitrogen in the fertilizers sample was a mere 31.8%. That means that the farmers could expect to buy fertilizers that are only two thirds as potent as advertised and to make matters worse some sampled fertilizers contained less than 10 % nitrogen” the report reads in part.

The study titled ‘Low quality low returns, low adaptation’ conducted by the International Growth Center shows that out of the fertilizers samples tested not one reached the standard 46% nitrogen content that pure Urea contains. Yet the Nitrogen nutrient is essential for the growth of maize.

Dr. Swaibu Mbowa, a Senior Research Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) who conducted the study said mystery buyers / shopper were sent to 360 randomly selected shops across the country to buy small portions of the most prevalent modern inputs: urea and improved maize seed.

“In our findings the yields from the sample shows that farmers seeds yielded on average 3.1 tonnes of maize per hectare. Authentic hybrid seeds yield about four tonnes of maize per hectare and the average yield of hybrid seeds bought from retailers lay almost exactly half way between the two at 3.55 tonnes of maize per hectare.

“The implication is that the quality of a bag of hybrid seeds in shops is as good as mixing half a bag of guanine hybrid and half a bag of farmer’s seed,” Mbowa said during the launch of the report in Kampala. The input study focused on three major areas that is the moisture content in fertilizers and seeds, Nutrient content and the weight content in the study finding. Imported fertilizers had 1.8%moisture content, retail (stockiest) had 1.92% and the re-packed one had the highest which was 2.8% of moisture content all such contents is higher than the international recommended one which is 1.5% thus making those above the 1.5% to be counterfeit fertilizers.

Mbowa said they tested fertilizers three times at a laboratory in Kampala to determine its nitrogen content which is the main stimulant for plant growth. The study team applied the fertilizers to the piloted seed gardens that were grown in five National Agricultural Research Organization centres in the five regions of Uganda.

However the findings from the trials showed that both seed and fertilizers were not meeting the prescribed standards thus making farmers to incur loses.

A former agriculture minister, Victoria Sekitoleko said the government should come up with stringent measures to protect farmers from fake agricultural inputs.

“Fake agricultural inputs on the market will compromise the sectors productivity thus keeping farmers in chronic poverty since the agriculture sector is the source of income to the greatest percentage of Uganda’s population” she said. Lucy Billing from the International Food Policy Research Institute advised government to embrace ICT technologies in verifying the agricultural inputs. Products both the imported ones and those manufacture locally in the country.

However the Director for crop resources in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries Okasai Ppolot said the Ministry
has started carrying out inspections to crack down on input dealers who are selling counterfeit products on the market.

“The Ministry is aware of the problem but we have stated cracking down the culprits. However the challenge the government has, is the shortage of agro- input inspectors to carry out countrywide inspections on all the agro- input dealers. We have only 17 agro inputs inspectors,” he said.

In their recommendation the report suggests that Government should take the lead role in importing bulky agriculture inputs then sign a memorandum of understanding with the private sector to help in distribution.

By Samuel Nabwiiso

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