Some agrochemicals sold in Uganda are counterfeit - report

A farmer in Sembabule District sprays cattle with acaricide to keep away blood-sucking parasites. Photos | Michael J Ssali 

What you need to know:

  • The report mentions loopholes that are being exploited by some industry players to the detriment of human health, the environment and marketing efforts.

Some of the agrochemicals sold in Uganda are counterfeit according to findings by a special committee that was set up to investigate the effectiveness of agrochemicals and animal health products in Uganda.

The report, seen by Seeds of Gold, was released on January 17, 2024 and it contains shocking revelations that must be immediately addressed.

In September 2021 the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Frank Tumwebaze established the committee due to widespread complaints by farmers about the poor effectiveness of crop-based Agrochemicals and Veterinary Inputs (ACVIs) on the Ugandan market.


The committee calls for stringent regulation of ACVIs to block all loopholes that make it possible for counterfeit ACVIs to enter the Ugandan market.

The committee which was headed by Makerere University professor, John David Kabasa, made interesting observations that now makes it imperative for the government to come up with a robust regulatory system on the use of ACVIs for the safety of all people residing in Uganda, the environment, and the investments in the sector.

Other members of the committee were leading personalities such as Dr Stevens Kisaka, who was the secretary and Dr Eve Kasirye Alemu, as the deputy chairperson. Others were Dr Julian Adyeri Omalla, Mr Hudda Mahmood, Ms Beatrice Byarugaba, Dr Ben Sekkamate, Dr Patrick Vudriko, Mr Emmanuel Tayebwa Rutamwebwa, Dr John Nuwagaba, and Ms Flora Kiconco who also served as the legal counsel.  

Strategic loopholes

The report mentions strategic loopholes that are being exploited by some industry players to the detriment of human health, the environment and marketing efforts. It says that there are outstanding gaps in the regulation of the importation, distribution, usage and knowledge on the effects of the ACVIs in the country. Several laws were also cited to be obsolete or wanting, and needed review.  

Farmers have faced pressure to increase production and productivity due to the rapidly growing population and the need to increase their incomes. ACVIs have been used as an option to spur production and productivity, although this has not created the intended results.

“The pressure coupled with the inadequate knowledge on use has led to the misuse of some of the ACVIs and as such some Ugandan agricultural products have suffered rejection on the export market,” says the report. “Critical dangers are posed to the environment, food consumers, soil and water, while potentially leading to the emergence of resistant strains of weeds and pests, ecological instability, water pollution and toxicity to humans and other organisms.”

Crop loss

It further says that the loss of 35 percent to 40 percent of crops to pests and diseases severely limits the productivity of both cash crops and food crops. Yet, unfortunately, the country is now host to pests and crop diseases that have no known cure and are fast wiping out major food and cash crops such as banana, sweet potato, cassava, Irish potato, maize, and Robusta coffee, among others.

“The banana bacterial wilt disease, for example, causes the loss of seven out of 10 expected bunches, resulting in annual economic losses of approximately US$ 299.6 million. The sweet potato weevil and virus infestation causes a total loss of approximately $6.7m. The late blight disease that has become resistant to herbicides affects six out of every ten Irish potatoes, yet the national demand for the crop in 2015 was up to 1,000,000 metric tonness. The Cassava Brown Streak Disease and Cassava Mosaic are reducing cassava production and the country is producing a mere 6.7 million tonnes annually compared to a potential 30 million tonnes. Similarly, due to drought and pests, Ugandan farmers’ average maize yield is 2.7 tonnes per hectare, compared to a potential 9 tons per hectare.”

Animal diseases

The committee report goes on to say that livestock represents about 16 percent of the agricultural GDP and about 4 percent of the national GDP. However, the country continues to experience recurrent outbreaks of endemic, emerging, and re-emerging animal and/or human diseases. These include African Swine Fever (ASF), Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), sheep and goat pox virus, brucellosis, hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola and highly pathogenic avian influenza hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), ticks and tick-borne diseases, anthrax, and rabies. These, together with other diseases and vectors, cause losses of 35 percent to 40 percent, thus limiting animal productivity. Trypanosomosis causes an average annual loss of USD 653 per household in terms of mortality and milk loss in cattle-keeping communities. In total, Uganda suffers an aggregated annual loss (direct and indirect) of over $1.1b due to ticks and tick-borne diseases and the situation is getting worse due to increasing acaricide resistance.

Illegal drug sellers

In its findings, the committee established that there are illegal drug sellers strewn across the country, and they obtain the drugs without a legal license from both inside and outside the country.

The committee observed that there is a need to create an autonomous Authority to regulate veterinary medicines other than the National Drug Authority (NDA) for prioritization purposes. Currently, NDA has the mandate to supervise the importation, exportation, and promotion of veterinary drugs in addition to human drugs but it was found to be understaffed. 

It recommended the separation of veterinary medicines and devices from human medicines and devices to allow prioritization of the regulation of veterinary medicines under an autonomous Authority.

It was also noted that the National Drug Policy and Authority Act Cap 206 that established the NDA is not explicit on the membership of veterinarians and veterinary drug suppliers on the Committee on Essential Drugs. The Committee was found to have representation from the human health sector only.

Further still, the National Drug Authority Act under Section 8 (2) and (3) requires the NDA to make sure that the country has a National Formulary to regulate the importation or sale of any drug. However, no veterinary formulary was found to exist. This hinders the effective training of animal healthcare workers, and the effective and efficient prescription of drugs for various diseases. There is also no registered local herbal drug for veterinary use, yet farmers are using them.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries was implored to reclaim the mandate for regulation of veterinary medicines and devices and create relevant structures that support efficient regulation. It was noted that several veterinarians and para-veterinarians are practicing without licenses, which calls for the Uganda Veterinary Board (UBV) to strengthen enforcement and amend the law to decentralize veterinary services so that District Veterinary Officers can work with UVB to regulate veterinary practitioners in the field.

They also implored the government to establish drug usage traceability systems as per international standards and enforce the restriction of prescription drugs to professionals only. A recommendation was made to the ministry of agriculture to fast-track the finalisation and operationalization of the digital traceability system.

The ministry of agriculture was advised to appoint scientists to conduct efficacy trials and monitor the efficacy trials of agrochemicals.

Manufacturers and agents were challenged to improve security features for their products to make it hard to fake. The committee recommended that all imported products should be subject to analysis before final clearance for distribution to farmers.


A number of laws relevant to ACVIs were also recommended for review and amendment to fit the new market trends.

Government was encouraged to consider promoting the local production of ACVIs given the central location of Uganda in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The committee further noted that border controls are key points of ACVI quality and risk management as they are the first point of action for identifying unwanted or illegal imports.

“It is therefore essential that better and internationally acclaimed border control mechanisms are established with well-trained border control personnel, inspectors, and customs officers that are well facilitated and equipped.”