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March 26, 2009

Fake agro-chemicals a growing problem in Uganda

The amount of fake agricultural chemicals on the Ugandan market is increasing every other day. According to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, unscrupulous dealers are taking advantage of the increasing demand for agro-chemicals to cheat unsuspecting farmers.

According to the ministry, the origin of these fake chemicals is yet to be established. It is, however, believed that they are part of a network of a larger counterfeit system, with connections within agro-chemical dealers who are involved in importing and exporting the fake chemicals among other commodities.

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.

Dealers can buy one bag of a genuine product, open it and reduce the quantity of the genuine chemical. They then refill it with an equivalent amount of coloured clay (kimele) that has the same colour or close to the same colour as the genuine agrochemical. The bag is resealed before it is sold to unsuspecting farmers.

In reality, although this bag may weigh the right 50kgs, at least 10kg of chemical are fake. Ultimately, the effect of the chemical when sprayed on the crop will be less. The additives will also afffect the yield of the crop and the soil fertility.

According to the ministry, most fungicides and fertilisers affected by this kind of scam include NPK, DAP and Urea fertilisers. The same technique is applied to the herbicides and insecticides.

A dealer removes the seal and removes some of the genuine chemical. He then adds water or paraffin to the container, seals the container and the herbicide or insecticide is sold to farmers. What the farmer buys is poor quality insecticides or herbicides whose effect, when sprayed on the crop, is minimal.

There are many leading and popular chemicals that have been abused. According to the ministry, the most counterfeit products on the market are, Round-up (Glyphosate) which is manufactured by Monsanto, Dithane M45 (Mancozeb 80WP) which is manufactured by Dow Agro Science, Dursban 4E (chlorpyrifos Ethyl 48% EC) which is manufactured by Dow Agro Science, Ridomil Gold MZ 68WP (Mancozeb 56% or Metalaxyl 12%) which is manufactured by Syngenta Crop Protection Ag. Basle and Furadan (Carbofuran) which is manufactured by FMC corporation.

With a chemical like Ridomil, when you shake the fake, it is powder and yet the genuine one has crystal. With Round up, the genuine one has a wider top cover than the fakes. As far as Dithane M-45 is concerned, the packaging was changed 17 years ago from the green packets to the red/brown packets.

However, some agro-chemical shops still sell the green packets which are fake. Farmers are advised to look out for this. Farmers must also become suspicious if a price quoted for a given chemical is much lower than the known price. This is because fakes are sold at a much cheaper price, but this is no guarantee that they are not sold at the same price as genuine products.

New Vision

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