Beware fake seeds, farmers warned

Counterfeit seed continues to circulate on the seed market during the start of every farming season, with many farmers falling victim to fraudsters working at Mbare Musika and other mushrooming informal outlets in every city and town.

Fake seed
Fake seed

The Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) says it has tried to stamp certified bags to alert buyers but with technology, unscrupulous retailers are able to imitate certification marks to dupe unsuspecting farmers.

“Lack of trust in seed suppliers is a problem for commercial farmers who have invested heavily to plant hundreds of acres with high yield hybrid that simply did not germinate and small-scale farmers whose failed harvests translate to outright hunger,” said the president of Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU), Wonder Chabikwa.

“We have standards that we adhere to. We test seed standards and confirm with a Standard Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) mark,” said Sebastian Zuze, a staff member at the regulatory body charged with certifying the quality of seed and other products on sale.

Many agricultural inputs other than maize are undermined by illegal players in the supply chain. The breakdown of trust in seed markets contributes to the long-standing poverty trap.

According to Zuze, stories of adulterated agro-chemicals being sold abound – with farmers reporting that herbicides are watered down, making it impossible for farmers to know how much to use for effective weed control.

Investigations revealed that diluting and counterfeiting can happen at many levels in the supply chain. The seed companies like Seed-co typically sell seed in larger bags that are marked – but the material is often split up at the retail level because that is what most farmers can afford. This creates an opportunity to adulterate the product.

Trevor Moyo, a seed and fertiliser vendor in Mbare, says fake seed retailers dye treated seed to imitate seed varieties like Pannar, Seed-co and other products. “Part of it is happening at the retail level,” he said. “But it could also be someone higher up in the supply chain.”

"Urgent action should be taken because many farmers have fallen victim to counterfeit products," said a licensed hardware retailer, Simba Mazhata, this week.

He said that individuals, backstreet retailers and respectable companies were all involved in selling sub-standard seeds to farmers at enticing low prices.

These so-called hybrid seed varieties are mere maize painted to imitate the hybrid seeds distributed by registered companies like Pannar, Seed-co and other seed manufacturing companies.

Farmers are getting poorer as most of these seeds fail to germinate. "Some of the paint and concoctions used to imitate original seeds contain elements that cause decay. Home-saved seed is better than this fake seed," said Mazhata.

He said buying cheap inputs was a popular trend among farmers who were desperate to make ends meet in the difficult economic climate. “This makes them fall victim to fraudsters who offer counterfeit products at affordable prices bearing respectable companies’ logos,” he said.

A 10 kg bag fake seed costs around $22 compared to around $40 for proper seed from registered suppliers. Mazhata urged the farming community to buy only those seeds authenticated by the Standard Association of Zimbabwe.

Post published in: Agriculture

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