Kampala, October4 – Uganda’s standards watchdog the Uganda National Bureau of Standards is planning to introduce the E-tag, a secure non-forgeable electronic tag system as part of efforts to stem widespread counterfeiting in the agricultural inputs market.
With the e-tag, an initiative between the agriculture ministry and UNBS, consumers will be able to establish the fidelity of quality marks on agro-inputs by sending the unique code attached to every product leaving the certified factories to the short code number 114. Alternatively, buyers can verify online www.114.ug and they will receive an instant return message confirming the authenticity of the product before purchasing.
“We know that many Ugandan farmers are reluctant to adopt labor saving and yield improving agricultural inputs, because they cannot trust the integrity of these products,” said Sheila Desai, the Economic Growth Office Director at USAID during the signing of a Memorandum of understanding between the two parties.
She said the initiative that will initially target counterfeit seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides can go a long way in building the capacity of farmers to invest in their farms as businesses and also turn the tide of low productivity and lack of trust in Uganda’s rural economy.
“Agriculture is an engine of growth, but it can be so much more powerful than it is currently being allowed to be. This is an excellent step towards realising that potential,” Desai added.
Christopher Kibazanga the state Minister of Agriculture says this initiative will help boost the efforts of farmers to transform from subsistence farming to market oriented production.
“Sixty-eight percent of the households in farming rely on home based seeds which limit yields and the quality of the produce given that 30 to 40 percent of agric-inputs produce are counterfeits. The Ministry is grateful for the initiative to avert counterfeit penetration and the e-tag marks the beginning of measures to protect a peasant farmer,” Kibazanga added.
Patricia Ejalu the Deputy Executive Director at UNBS says with the e-tag, UNBS’ impounding team will be quick to get the culprits and those who fail to meet the required standards in Uganda will face punitive measures which include either paying a fine or jail time or both depending on the gravity of the matter.