Malawi minister points to fake fertilizer scam

The minister of agriculture in Malawi, Lobin Lowe, has said the government is aware of counterfeit fertilizer products being supplied to farmers in the country via  a recently-introduced incentives scheme.

The Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) was launched last year to boost farming in the African nation by providing access to materials like fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and seeds at a subsidised rate.

According to a report in the Nyasa Times, Lowe said this week that some fertilizer companies contracted to supply affordable materials have been supplying fakes in search of illegal profits, duping farmers. Various companies have been reported to the police for further investigation, he added.

The Malawi Police Service has said that some arrests have been made as the investigation continues. Some suppliers have already been de-registered from the AIP.

Fertilizers are often bulked up with fillers, which can contain harmful chemicals that damage crops, hitting yields and potentially harming consumers.

A study sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – which focused primarily on Ghana and Uganda – found that counterfeiting of agricultural inputs was widespread in both markets.

For fertilizers and similar products, the fraudulent activity took the form mainly of mislabeled/underweight products, adulterated genuine products diluted with filler, and substandard ‘lookalike’ products that try to mimic genuine brands.

Some manufacturers have deployed packaging material and labels that are more difficult to imitate or re-use, but the measures do not go far enough, according to the study, which has called for wider use of end-user authentication and track-and-trace technologies to combat the fraud.

The Gates Foundation said there is also need to simplify complex supply chains for agricultural inputs, with numerous intermediaries, reduced reliance on imported products and greater investment in and access to product testing capabilities.

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