Scientists have asked the government to attract more investors in the seed multiplication industry if counterfeits are to be phased out of the market.
This was agreed on at the second Biennial National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) Scientific Conference that was held last week in Kampala.
The conference themed ‘Connecting Agricultural Research to Society,’ presented a unique platform for researchers and originators of agricultural products to engage and share knowledge and ideas with recipients.
The Conference was attended by over 400 delegates, including researchers, reputed scientists, policy makers, students, farmers, extension workers, and development partners from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and USA.
Dr. Ambrose Agona, the acting Director General, NARO said: “Researchers at the various research organizations in the country have developed new crop varieties. The foundation seeds have been given to the private sector for seed multiplication but there is need to have more, effective multiplication companies.”
Agona told participants that if farmers get access to the improved seeds, it will spur the transformation of the agriculture sector.
He said the traditional crop varieties cannot withstand the current challenges associated with climatic change and the routine outbreak of pests and diseases.
According to reports, Uganda has only 22 seed producing companies and they produce below capacity.
Agona said NARO is employing research extension service providers under the g outreach and partnership unit at the Directorate of NARO. This is to enable researchers have direct interaction with the farmers.
To combat the outbreak of pests and diseases in cassava, maize and banana, the Country’s scientist’s embarked on extensive research. The research led to the development of crop varieties that are resistant to pest and disease.
Some of the new varieties include the rice varieties such as Nerica6, WITA9, Agaro and Okile rice varieties. Scientists have also developed Drought tolerant maize varieties like WE2101, WE2103, WE2104, and WE2106.
Dr. Godfrey Asea, head of NARO cereal programme in Namulonge said if farmers plant such new crop varieties, the yields will increase between 20 per cent to 25 per cent compared to the commercial hybrids released in 2008.
He said farmers have embraced improved crop varieties especially for maize, rice and cassava, however, up-country farmers cannot access or afford the improved varieties. It has been alleged that some unscrupulous businessmen coat maize seed with paint and sell this as genuine improved seed.
Crop scientists have also developed enriched nutritional crops such as beans and banana (matooke) using crop biofortification technology.
The Minister of Agriculture, Tracy Buchanayandi said Government will finance and support agricultural research.
He said: “Government will continue improving the resource envelope of NARO and engage scientists in developing new crop varieties that can withstand the current environmental challenges.”
Dr. Fred Muhumuza of the auditing firm KPMG said: “Technological research provides ways of improving crop varieties and delivering the results in a more cost effective and efficient method and increase returns to all actors.”
He objected to the idea of establishing financial institutions that offer agricultural credit facilities at high interest rates. The challenge is that Government has not developed policies to support agricultural insurance to provide security guarantee to farmers.
He said for the agriculture sector to attract local and global private financing, it must transform the sector into a commercially viable enterprise. This can be done through joint venture agribusiness practices.
He said farmers have the land but lack capital to finance agricultural enterprises.
Muhumuza said the government should not depend on the private sector for seed multiplication because buying seed from the private sector is costly. He aised the government to partner with institutions like the army and prisons to promote seed multiplication.
He said: “These two institutions have large acreage of land across the country. The government should contract them to multiply the seed variety.”
He said implementation of such policies will ensure the country does not run out of improved quality seed varieties.
In countries where tremendous movement has been registered, the agricultural sector has been an instrument of poverty reduction.
Source : East African Business Week