With the planting season almost here, Seed Trade Association of Malawi (Stam) has warned farmers to be on high alert when buying maize seed as fake versions have flooded the market.
Stam secretary general Nessim Nyama, speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, said the issue of fake seeds affects both the seed traders and farmers.
He said the industry strives to provide quality seeds that give farmers the best returns which they cannot reap if they use fake seeds.
Nyama said as a starting point, Stam encourages farmers to buy from agro-dealers. He said the seed industry also trains and registers agro-dealers to know who is qualified to sell their seeds.
He said: “Normally, we put in the media a list of genuine agro-dealers where farmers can access genuine seeds because we encourage farmers to at least ask for the seed sellers’ licence which has got a Stam and government emblem before they can purchase their seeds from these agro-dealers.
“We have challenges because there are just so many agro-dealers that just come up during this period of the year because they just want to make money.”
Stam’s sentiments come in the wake of reports of arrests of unscrupulous traders packing and selling fake maize seed in several parts of the country.
National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa yesterday said three cases have so far been reported. They have occurred in Mwanza, Dedza and Limbe in Blantyre.
In Mwanza, four men were arrested for allegedly being found in possession of fake maize seeds which they were selling to farmers in the district in packs of two kilogrammes (kg).
In Dedza, police arrested a woman found in possession of fake maize seed. Police found people packaging the maize seed at her house while in Limbe a 21-year-old vendor from Limbe Market was arrested after being found selling suspected fake maize seed packed in Pannar Seed, Seed-Co and Monsanto Malawi packages, among others.
According to Nyama, the fake seed syndicate is deceiving as it packs the product in genuine packaging but with fake seed.
He decried lenient penalties for the proliferation of the fake seed industry.
Recently, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) said about 10 percent of seed supplied in the 19-member trade bloc is uncertified, a development that affects output.
Comesa seed harmonisation working team leader John Mukuka said this on the sidelines of a Comesa Seed Harmonisation Implementation Plan (Comship) meeting in Lilongwe.
He said Comesa region requires two million tonnes of seed, but the market only receives 500 000 tonnes, creating a deficit of 1.5 million tonnes.
Mukuka said it is this deficit that creates room for tricksters to duplicate and supply fake seed which poses challenge to agricultural productivity.