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Uganda adopts sms to check fake farm inputs

Posted in Technology, Research & Innovation

UGANDA - Uganda has tightened the fight against counterfeit and substandard agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizers, chemicals among other items flooding the Uganda market by launching the E-tag electronic verification system.

"Proliferation of substandard agro inputs in the Ugandan market is very high at 30% across the country. This is not only causing economic loss, but also leading to destruction of livelihoods.

"Agriculture being the backbone of Uganda, we cannot afford to lose anymore," Dr. Ben Manyindo, the Chief Executive Officer, Uganda National Bureau of Standards said, at the launch of the E-tag system last week.

Uganda loses $1.5 billion of revenue in fake agricultural inputs each year which experts say will be saved by the E-tag system and further gives the country the opportunity to generate an extra $1billion revenue into the economy.

E-tag system is a local new user friendly electronic verification technology developed by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to help consumers and traders in Uganda and in the region verify the legitimacy of agricultural inputs using their mobile phones.

The brains behind this technology, Collins Nuwagira, UNBS Officer in charge E-tag technology said the fight against counterfeits and substandard agro inputs has been challenging because one cannot tell where and what a counterfeit agro input is or looks like.

This he said can only be realized six or seven month down the road by either a poor harvest or good harvest.

Nuwagira said with the E-tag verification system now in place, manufacturers, traders and consumers can now going forward closeout on producers and traders of counterfeits and substandard agricultural inputs from the very first stage of the value chain.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and other agricultural input certifying organizations in Uganda, each and every agricultural input produced or sold in the local market will be assigned and stack with scratch code just like in the airtime recharge card.

Using a mobile phone, the farmer or trader will scratch the code stacked on the agro input, he/she will begin by dialing *114# chose a language option followed by the digit code scratched out from the agro input, followed by# and send to 114. The service is free of charge and accessible any time.

Nuwagira said a message indicating that the agro input is a genuine certified product will be sent back to you. In the matter that the product is counterfeit or substandard, a message alerting the consumer or trader about the same will be received.

He said the E-tag is important to the country because it gives Ugandans the power to determine what is good for them.

"This system benefits everybody in the sector in that, it assures the consumers about the right product, increases brand visibility for both the manufacturers and traders which trickles down to increased customer loyalty to the product or brand and hence increased sales.

it reduces the blame game between producers, traders and consumers especially when there is a complaint about the quality of the product to mention but a few," Nuwagira said.

November 30, 2015;