TANZANIA Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) has vowed to intensify the fight against fake seeds that have become widespread in the local market.
The Institute's Head, Ms Tasiana Maingu, however lamented that current laws do not help much in curbing the trend, noting that penalties against perpetrators are too lenient. Once found guilty, perpetrators who sell fake seeds face a prison term of one year or a fine of not more than 5m/-.
The institute, she observed, seeks to redress the matter by looking into ways of having in place far more harsh penalties against distributors of fake seeds. Distribution of fake or poor quality seeds is said to be one of the reasons farmers receive poor harvests in the country with far-reaching consequences such as famine.
Ms Maingu made the revelation during the inauguration of TOSCI Board of Directors in Dar es Salaam."Fake seeds have become a huge challenge and a serious drawback to farmers. Most are not well educated and thus fail to identify fake seeds from genuine ones.
We are aware of this and have deliberate strategies to end it," she said. The institute has a report indicating that the areas mostly flooded with fake seeds are those that are along borders with neighbouring countries such as Mara, Mbeya, Arusha, Ruvuma and Iringa, she hinted.
Ms Maingu advised farmers to purchase seeds from agencies and companies which are registered and avoid buying them from the streets. She also expressed concern over the meagre budget allocations by the government to the institute saying that it is never enough to enable TOSCI to operate efficiently.
"TOSCI only receives between 40 and 60 per cent of the budget it requests, this really makes our efforts futile," she said, adding that even the small amount released by the government is at times delayed.The Director of Human Resources and Administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Elais Shayo, challenged the institute to do what it takes to eliminate fake seeds in the country.
He was speaking on behalf of the ministry's Permanent Secretary, Mr Muhamed Muya, at the event. He promised support to the institute but stressed the bulk of the burden to deal with fake seeds lies with TOSCI. TOSCI Board Chairman, Prof Robert Mabagala, appealed for assistance from the public after noting that it is difficult to win the fight against fake seeds dealers without cooperation from the public.
He said that Tanzania has large area that could be used to produce quality seeds compared to other East African countries but it is sad to note that, that is not the case.