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Certified Seed Companies to Tame Decline in Standards

Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja says it is prudent for the government to have the standards issue handled at a go and comprehensively, instead of tackling is sector by sector or stage by stage of the value chain. He has also vowed to periodically publish the certified seed companies starting this month, and also the chemical inputs that are considered dangerous.
A water-proof and weevil resistant hermetic bag suitable for grain storage

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The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries has started certifying seed companies in a bid to address the poor quality in grain and other cereals, particularly aflatoxin.

The certified companies will have to undergo all standard and quality assurance measures set by the ministry including the production process of the seeds, the premises and handling as well as packaging.

Among other measures, the packages will also have to meet standards and will be labelled and marked with un-deletable material to also ensure that the labels can undergo harsh conditions without fading.  The seed companies will also be expected to use hermetic bags.

These are storage bags that are made from materials that cannot allow moisture or weevils, irrespective of the conditions or length of time.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries says that aflatoxins have been found to develop under different conditions and at each stage of the value chain, including seed processing and storage, planting, harvesting grain storage as well as flour.

Uganda’s grain has over the years faced sanctions by the export market in East Africa, as well as the UN World Food Organisation, over aflatoxins.

But other foodstuffs, including fresh foods also usually meet standards issues in the European market, especially pests and traces of chemicals.

Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja says it is prudent for the government to have the standards issue comprehensively, instead of tackling it sector by sector or stage by stage of the value chain.  He has also vowed to periodically publish the certified seed companies starting this month, and also the chemical inputs that are considered dangerous.

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Ssempijja also explains that the government has decided to distribute post-harvest handling materials to farmers including storage facilities at the community level since individual smallholder farmers may not afford them.

In some areas, however, including in Masindi, farmers have complained that the companies that are given the contracts to manage community facilities end up starting farms and in the end, the small farmers are suffocated out of the business.

Ssempijja says in the West and the Central parts of the country, the farmers are moving faster in adopting best practices like using tarpaulins for drying their grain.  

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He also reiterated the lack of checks in the East African Common Market protocol which allows the free movement of goods, services and persons across the borders.

This has seen traders freely enter Uganda and contact farmers directly for produce. Because of this, the farmers are attracted by quick money and they harvest the grain that is not yet dry or they artificially dry it by spraying the crop with herbicides, greatly affecting the quality of the product.

It also difficult to tell how safe and free of moisture the bags used by the traders and farmers at the farm are, and this cannot guarantee that that grain will not develop moulds during transportation, and in turn get infected with aflatoxin.      

Ssempijja says the companies that are under The Grain Council of Uganda have been certified to export grain to Kenya.

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