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Fight against fake agro-inputs spreads in Comesa bloc

Sunday May 12 2019

Serlom Branttie

Serlom Branttie (centre) mPedigree Global Strategy Director explaining a point during the two-day training on use and trading of the Comesa seed labels in Lusaka, Zambia. PHOTO | COURTESY 

FAUSTINE NGILA
By FAUSTINE NGILA
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Kenya is set to benefit from a deeper penetration of a seed label online verification system into the country’s supply chains and access to new ecosystem support.

This is after mPedigree, a global leader in the use of mobile and web technologies in securing products against counterfeiting, teamed up with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to expand traceability technology for agro-inputs such as fertilisers, seeds and pesticides into the whole Comesa region.

The move makes Comesa the first regional trading bloc to launch an online seed label verification system in Africa, thanks to mPedigree’s GoldKeys technology.

FAKE INPUTS

“The system will assist the region to not only eliminate cases of fake agro-inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and crop protection products but also boost trade in quality and improved certified seed,” said Selorm Branttie, mPedigree Global Strategy Director.

Mr Branttie was speaking during the launch and Comesa Secretariat training for seed companies on ordering, use and trading using the Comesa Seed labels and Certificates in Lusaka, Zambia.

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This comes even as the director of public prosecution Mr Noordin Haji on Friday withdrew criminal charges against four out of 11 suspects and  an importer linked to substandard compound fertiliser alleged to contain mercury.

With the verification system in place, farmers in one country are able to trace both source and certification of agro-inputs from their smartphones, even without the internet thus ensuring production of safe agricultural outputs like maize and vegetables, thus protecting consumers in the long-run.

POOR PERFORMANCE

“This is the first time that seed certificates and verification of the seeds will be done electronically and the farmer will be able to trace the source of the seed and authenticity of the seed without difficulty,” said Mr Branttie.

Fake seeds have greatly contributed to poor performance of 80 million small-holder farmers and food insecurity in the Comesa region.

“For every seed package that will have a Comesa sticker, it means the source of that seed has been documented and can be tracked by the receiving end.

Comesa will work with the National Seed Authorities to ensure that fake agro-inputs like seeds are eradicated from the market,” said the Director of Industry and Agriculture, Mr Thierry Kalonji who represented the Assistant Secretary Gernark for Programmes Amb, Dr Kipyego Cheluget.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) in September 2017 launched a text-based service to protect farmers from fake seeds, powered by mPedigree.

FOOD SHORTAGES

Kephis MD Esther Kimani said the move was aimed at rooting out unscrupulous traders who sell untested seed varieties that perform poorly, causing farmers losses.

“These fake seed sellers have also been the cause of food shortages that make Kenya spend billions of shillings on imports annually. The new security service targets small scale farmers who buy between one and five kilogramme packets of seeds,” Dr Kimani said.

She said a pilot on the new service together with inventors of the text-based security seal service, mPedigree, had yielded positive results, forcing seed sellers to vet packets to avoid being a source of fake seeds.