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Be wary of fake seed sellers

WITH the onset of the farming season for the year 2019/2020, farmers across the country are certainly preoccupied with how and where they are going to buy agricultural inputs.
Some farmers who are eligible for the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and food security pack are probably fulfilling their obligation to access the inputs.
Those who are not eligible and even those whose input needs are beyond what is provided for through FISP are certainly looking for alternative and cheaper sources.
However, for criminal-minded individuals, this period presents an opportune time for them to fork out money from unsuspecting farmers by selling fake inputs.
Fraudsters take advantage of this period to package fake seeds, fertiliser and other inputs to sell to unsuspecting farmers at ridiculously low prices.
Due to the enticingly low prices at which these fake inputs are sold, many farmers fall for them.
These fake seeds have obviously resulted in low or no yields at all.
At a time that we are grappling with climate change, which has affected yields and food security, the need to plant quality seed cannot be overemphasised.
This is why President Edgar Lungu is making a passionate call to all farmers to be wary of crooked businessmen and women selling fake seed, fertiliser and other inputs.
“You should always ensure that you buy seed with a label indicating its certification by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“I wish to further advise farmers to retain all packaging materials as this will help the Ministry of Agriculture to undertake verifications in the event that inputs are discovered not to be genuine and are of poor quality,” President Lungu said during the launch of the 2019/2020 planting season in Chikankata.
Farmers need to be alert as they go about buying their inputs to avoid falling victim to these fraudsters.
Small-scale farmers in particular should desist from buying seeds on the streets or unlicensed seed traders to curtail losses.
When buying maize seed, a farmer should ensure that the bag of seed has a label from Seed Certification Control Institute of Zambia (SCCIZ).
The label should have the date on which the seed was tested by SCCIZ. The lot number on the label shows the year the seed was produced and the grower. The label should further indicate the germination capacity and purity of the seed, which is normally above 90 percent.
Farmers also need to understand that each seed company uses a different colourant that is mixed with the seeds to protect the seeds against the pests. The colorant contains the shiny substance that makes the certified seeds look different from substandard seeds.
The farmer should also ensure that the seeds in the bag are uniform in terms of the shape and size. The bag of seed should also not carry any foreign matter apart from the seed itself.
Seed companies use special cotton or twine to sew bags of seeds. It is therefore important for farmers to pay particular attention to the way seeds are packaged by various seed companies to avoid buying counterfeit products.
Genuine seed sellers will also display price lists by seed companies so that farmers buy seeds at the correct prices.
Needless to say, farmers should always ask for a receipt upon purchasing inputs from any seller. With the receipt it is easy for a farmer to trace any seller of fake seeds and demand for a refund, or even sue them.
Most importantly, farmers should ensure that they get genuine and quality seed to avoid losing out given the unpredictable rain patterns.
According to the Meteorological Department, most parts of the country are expected to only have normal rains up to February.
This entails that farmers need to plant quality seeds from the onset. There is no time for replanting after a failed crop.
It is also expected that farmers will this year plant early-maturing and drought resistant crops to prevent failed crops as was the case in some parts of the country last farming season.
As rightly noted by President Lungu, we expect the extension officers to be on the ground to help farmers with new farming techniques and skills necessary to adapt to new climatic conditions.
Now that the planting season has been launched, we expect all farmers to be on their toes to ensure that they leave no stone unturned in pursuit of a good harvest this season.
We also expect law enforcers to be on the lookout, to arrest any fraudsters with ill intentions of duping farmers out of their hard-earned cash.