Afternoon presentations: Private sector solutions

The afternoon session was begun with a presentation by Benjamin and Philipp Prinz from the Joseph Initiative Ldt. The Joseph Initiative is a grain management and trading company active in Uganda, with an innovative business model. Mr Prinz motivated the presentation by outlining why most producers in Uganda currently do not achieve their full productive potential: (1) lack of access to reliable and value responsive markets, (2) lack of genuine inputs, (3) lack of access to credit. Speaking to the theme of the event and bringing in their knowledge of the market, they then identified market failures responsible for the low quality and low uptake of inputs on the market: (a) limited verifiable real-time information, (b) high price sensitivity due to output market risk and illiquidity, (c) misconception of productivity of inputs due to improper use, (d) ineffective implementation of the regulatory framework.

The second part of the presentation explained how the Joseph Initiative responds to the market failures and challenges the farmer faces by integrating input and output markets: They sell farmers genuine inputs, improving farmers’ yield and quality of produce, then go on to buy and feed this produce into their supply chain for sale to bigger regional buyers. Their buying centres are open during the whole harvest season and equipped with storage and processing facilities that allow them to ensure that the farmer can achieve a good price at any time. Their business also helps farmers get access to credit through a partner bank, this way fully integrating the supply chain. In closing their presentation, they proposed policy interventions identified from their experience in the market.

Bringing the perspective of a large agricultural input importer to the discussion, the second presentation in the afternoon was given by Agnes Mbabazi from Balton, one of the largest importers in Uganda.  Ms. Mbabazi began her presentation by giving a detailed overview of the fertilizer market in Uganda, and identification of the products with the highest prevalence of counterfeiting. She further explained that other sources for low quality of inputs are related to poor storage, transport, labelling. Measures that Balton has taken to counteract counterfeiting and quality decline are the introduction of a pre-export verification system, spot check on fertilizers imported (samples are taken to government analytical labs), dealing exclusively with reputable manufacturers of fertilizers, on time stocking. However, Ms. Mbabazi also emphasized that policy measures are needed: An anti-counterfeit bill, more involvement of UNBS in the agricultural sector, more logistical support for MAAIF to increase policing, PPP’s with MAAIF, government subsidies, sensitization on fertilizer usage and quality, more quality checks.

The last presentation of the day featured an innovative solution to the problem of counterfeit products: scratch-cards that allow verification via SMS. The presentation was given by Bright Simons, the President of M-Pedigree, whose company is introducing the system for agricultural inputs on the Ugandan market, in collaboration with the USAID sponsored Feed the Future, the Uganda Bureau of Standards, and the Ugandan company RenPublishing. Once rolled out, the system will allow consumers real-time verification of the authenticity, with no direct costs to the consumer. Apart from benefiting the consumer, the system also carries benefits for producers, importers or retailer by allowing mobile phone based surveying, promotions, coupons, blacklisting of distributors and sales analytics through real time data collection.