Police have impounded nearly 8 tonnes of fake and uncertified maize seed with an estimated street value of between US$16 000 and US$20 000 from a house in the Avondale area of Harare where it was being made in a makeshift factory.
ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told journalists on Tuesday in the capital that 13 cases involving counterfeit seed weighing 7,8 tonnes had so far been reported and are pending at the courts.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police and Seed Co have noted with concern the proliferation of fake and counterfeit maize seed which is being sold to unsuspecting farmers through informal markets in various parts of the country,” he said at a press conference jointly organised with Seed Co, a top seed manufacturing company.
“So far 13 cases involving 7,8 tonnes of fake seeds have been reported to the police and are pending court. Investigations by the police have established that the fake seed is being sold at illegal outlets and open spaces at prices which are even lower than the original seed found in established outlets and hardwares.
“This is threatening the nation’s efforts to alleviate hunger in line with the National Development Strategy 1.”
Seed manufacturer, Seed Co has partnered with the ZRP to fight the peddling of fake maize seed on the local market as farmers are making preparations for the 2022 – 2023 cropping seasons.
As farmers are in a hurry to begin sowing, some unscrupulous dealers are trying to seize the opportunity by pushing fake seeds into the local markets using green – coloured fake seed in 5kg, 10kg and 50kg packs labelled “Seed Co,” the brand of a leading seed house.
“With Seed Co maize seed, a farmer has the potential to reach 8 – 16 tonnes per hectare. However, a farmer using fake seed will lose about 80 percent of their harvest,” said Terrence Chimanya, Seed Co managing director.
“Therefore, our product basket facing counterfeiting threats is not only a threat to our brand’s image and reputation but a more serious threat is posed to the farmer and the nation. This sad act is derailing the government’s efforts to alleviate hunger according to the National Development Strategy.”
Nyathi said the ZRP will therefore enforce provisions of the Seed Act, Chapter 19:13 and ensure that the law takes its course on anyone found selling fake or counterfeit maize seed.
Both the police spokesman and Chimanya bemoaned that the penalties for those found guilty of flouting the Seed Act were too lenient and there was need for tougher and deterrent laws.
A person found guilty of selling counterfeit seed only pays between ZWL$650 and ZWL$1 000.
“As we work together to confront this challenge head-on our request to our law enforcers is for heavy penalties. Current penalties are non – deterrent, we seek a sentencing review to curb the threat of fake seed,” said Chimanya.
Members of the public were urged to report to any nearest police station suspects who are packaging and selling counterfeit maize seed.
The public should report on the following numbers – Harare Operations 0242 748836, Bulawayo Operations 029 885479, National Complaints Desk 0242 703631 and Whatsapp 0172 800 197.
According to The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), almost 10 percent of seeds sold in Africa and South Asia are fake.
This brings a huge cost for farmers, who can see harvests slashed, their families go hungry and bank loans remain unpaid if they are tricked.
TASAI says counterfeit seed affects the business viability of both farmers and seed companies.
According to statistics from Seed Co, in 2019 at least 75 tonnes of fake seed maize were confiscated from 45 identified sources.
However, only 10 convictions were recorded during the same period.