COMESA, the regional trading bloc whose members include Eastern, Central and Southern countries like Kenya and Uganda has launched a partnership with the global technology firm mPedigree to expand the latter’s agro-inputs protection technology into the whole of the COMESA region.
For countries like Kenya where the technology is already active and securing agro-inputs like seeds and fertiliser, this new partnership promises a deeper penetration into the country’s supply chains and access to new ecosystem support.
This move makes COMESA the first regional trading bloc to launch an online seed label verification system in Africa and globally and made possible by mPedigree’s GoldKeys technology. mPedigree is a global leader in the use of mobile and web technologies in securing products against faking, counterfeiting and diversion.
“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 Zambia.
The launch was done under the COMESA Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Seed programme.
This comes even as the director of public prosecution (DPP) Mr Noordin Haji on Thursday withdrew criminal charges against four out of 11 people and importer linked to substandard compound fertiliser claimed to contain mercury.
When the DPP presented the 11 suspects to court in the case involving Sh300 million fertiliser, he was breathing nothing but fire claiming he had a watertight case.
But while dropping the charges against the OCP(K) directors and Bollore Logistics supervisor, he challenged the order for a retest of the fertiliser saying it was impossible to retest it because “If you keep fertiliser for quite some time, there would be a chemical reaction. Therefore, ordering a retest will not give the same results because chemical composition would have changed, and the court has to take that into consideration,” he said.
With the verification system for agro-inputs and crop protection products in place, Mr Branttie said, farmers in the country are able to trace both source and certification of agro-inputs from their phone screen, even without internet. It will also aid the elimination of fraudulent trade in fake agro-inputs, which has greatly contributed to the poor performance of 80 million small-holder farmers and food insecurity in the COMESA region.
COMESA covers 21 countries in Africa, across Central and East African countries including Kenya.
“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 Sectretaur 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.
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.