Government has been told to enact a law that will criminalise both the selling and purchase of counterfeit products being it in the agricultural sector.
On Friday, October 15, 2021 the 11-member committee established by the Minister for Agriculture, rank Tumwebaze to study and give policy recommendations on addressing the persistent problem of poor-quality agrochemicals on the market officially started its work.
Giving their views their views, the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa told the committee that counterfeits is a booming business and that fighting it is not simply an event but a series of actions that need to be undertaken to deal with the problem.
“Make it an offence to buy counterfeit agro -products. Not only selling counterfeits should be criminal but also buying them. It should be painful for one to buy counterfeit products and this way, people will know that by ding it, they are breaking the law. Slowly y slowly we shall see many people shun these fake agro inputs and chemicals,” the legal director at the Anti-Counterfeit Network told the committee.
“If you knowingly buy a counterfeit, you should be held accountable and prosecuted in courts of law.”
Muwema told the committee that with such a law in place and properly enforced, people will become cautious of the agro products they buy on the market and this way, they will only buy genuine products.
“Consumers including farmers will start to be critical of what they are to buy. Small holder farmers should be critical of people selling counterfeit products and report them to authorities.”
The Anti Counterfeit Network suggested that whereas there are laws against counterfeits, they are not enforced properly in addition to the fair punishments that are stipulated for people convicted of dealing in fake products.
“If you are a supplier of products and you are found of suppling fake inputs and chemicals to government, you should be banned for five years from doing that business on top of being named and shamed. A landlord who allows selling of fake products at their building should also be penalized,”Muwema said.
He said that this way, it will make it difficult for people to deal or allow dealers in counterfeit products continue operating.
“If it becomes painful to buy or deal in counterfeit products, everyone will shun it. This way, dealers in genuine will enjoy business and government gets taxes that it misses because most counterfeit products don’t pay taxes.”
According to Muwema, government should stop taxing and allowing importation of counterfeit products so that they completely don’t enter the Ugandan market as a preventive measure.
The Anti Counterfeit Network however noted that all these can be achieved if there is awareness of the members of the public of the public and government about genuine and counterfeit products.
According to Richard Kawesa, the Anti Counterfeit Network’s director for strategy, counterfeits thrive in the economy because many people cannot ably differentiate between them and genuine products.
“Members of the public, especially farmers should be able to differentiate between a fake and genuine agro chemical. If they cant differentiate between the two, they will continue buying counterfeits,”Kawesa said.
Kawesa also noted that dealers in counterfeits have made them so affordable for everyone as well as making it look normal for the public to buy these products yet in the end, they are endangering the lives of many.
“It has become the new normal for the public to buy counterfeits since many of them are conveniently located. Intellectual property owners have also become negligent as their trademarks are being encroached on by dealers in counterfeits as many of them don’t care yet they end up losing their market to counterfeits,” Kawesa said.
Speaking during the interaction, the committee chairperson, Prof. John David Kabaasa, the principal of Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity said they will get views from all stakeholders and come up with a comprehensive report that will inform government on how to deal with the problem of poor agro chemicals and agricultural inputs that have flooded the market.
“We shall do a comprehensive analysis of the agro-chemical and veterinary supply chain in a bid to come up with solutions to challenges faced by farmers,”Prof.Kabasa said.
The committee will also look into the current policies in regards agro-chemicals and advise government on what needs to be improved for better service delivery.