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November 05, 2009

Zimbabwe police confiscate counterfeit maize seed

Zimbabwean police have recovered six tonnes of fake maize seed at a house in Tynwald, Harare, where it was being made in a makeshift factory and arrested one suspect.

The green-coloured fake seed was in 10kg and 50kg packs labelled "Seed Co,"the brand of a leading seed house. Some of the seed was being sold in shops in Harare. It is believed that the ring behind the scam was colouring ordinary maize with green material to make it look like genuine seed.

At the time of writing, it could not be ascertained as to how much fake seed made its way from the makeshift factory at the Tynwald house onto the streets and shops before police busted the ring. 800kg of the fake seed had been taken to Harare Central Police Station with the rest remaining at the house under police guard. Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau confirmed the arrest and said investigations were underway.

The matter came to light when two women who had bought 20kg of the fake seed from a shop along Charter Road in the city centre became suspicious after closely examining the seed.

They made a police report and investigations led authorities, including Seed Co officials, to the Tynwald house. A police raid netted six tonnes of fake maize seed that was being "processed" leading to the arrest of one suspect.

Deputy police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka urged farmers to be wary of criminals selling fake seed. "It would appear that as we are in the farming season, there are some criminal elements pouncing on innocent farmers," said Chief Supt Mandipaka.

He urged farmers to buy their seed and any other inputs from reputable outlets and check both the packaging and quality of seed to avoid being duped.

"Buying fake seed will affect the agricultural sector in that yields will be compromised at the end of the day," said Chief Supt Mandipaka. He said the busy Mbare Musika was most likely to prove popular with sellers of fake seed. In recent years, several reports of conmen selling fake seed and fertilizers at Mbare Musika have been recorded.

Police said they were on the lookout for people selling the fake products.

The latest incident comes on the back of reports of a maize seed deficit for the 2009/10 cropping season. Of the 35 000 tonnes needed for optimum production on a national scale, 20 000 tonnes have been produced locally while the remainder would have to be imported. This has seen many retailers importing seed primarily from South Africa.

Farmers have largely not been able to purchase seed in meaningful quantities because they do not have money.

The Herald

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