Morning presentations: Research

The morning session featured three research presentations. Prof. Jakob Svensson from Stockholm University presented the IGC-study ‘Low-quality, low trust and low adoption: Evidence from the market for fertilizer and hybrid seed in Uganda’. As part of this study, Prof. Svensson and his co-authors conducted a mystery shopper experiment, anonymously buying fertilizer and hybrid seeds from more than 360 randomly selected shops. The fertilizer bought was then taken to the laboratory and tested for its nitrogen content.  The lab results showed that the average fertilizer sold by retail shops on the Ugandan market contains 33% less fertilizer than authentic fertilizer. Similarly, hybrid seed that was bought was tested on experimental plots, to show that the ‘hybrid’ seed being sold is subject to massive counterfeit too, with only 45% of it being authentic hybrid seed on average.

The high amount of counterfeit in the market has led to a deterioration of trust in the market among farmers. The research team conducted interviews to map farmers’ perceptions, and found that farmers have a fairly accurate perception of the amount of counterfeit in the market. And farmers are drawing the right conclusions: Using hybrid seeds and fertilizer available on the market just isn’t profitable, because such a large share of it is counterfeit. To show this, Prof. Svensson trialled the purchased inputs on experimental plots and showed that mean expected return is negative, and positive in only 20% of cases.

The second study titled  ‘Uganda FTF E-verification Impact Evaluation Study’ presented by Lucy Billings from the International Food Policy Research Institute is an on-going evaluation of a private sector solution to the problem outlined by Prof. Svensson’s research. Feed the Future, the co-host for the event, is supporting the introduction of an e-verification system for agricultural input. This system uses scratch tags containing codes that can be verified via SMS, allowing farmers to check whether the input they are offered in shops is genuine or not. Baseline data has been collected, and the introduction of the e-verification system to the Ugandan market was announced during the presentation. The study will collect data on the prevalence of counterfeit inputs, farmers’ perceptions and effects of the e-verification system on these variables. Data on household effects will also be collected.

The third study titled ‘Revisiting Uganda’s Inorganic Fertilizer Supply Chain’ was presented by Swaibu Mbowa from the Economic Policy Research Centre. His research traces the quality of agricultural inputs along the supply chain using mystery shoppers, taking into account moisture content, nutrient (nitrogen) content, and weight accuracy. Per each of the four Ugandan regions, the study sampled 2 districts, and from there 4 wholesalers and 3 retailers. Among retailers, one firm was picked that was registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animals and Fisheries (MAAIF), one firm that was a member of the Uganda National Agriculture Dealers Association (UNADA), and one firm that was not registered (illicit). The results surprisingly show that the highest share of counterfeited or low quality inputs are sold by MAAIF registered dealers, the second highest share is being sold by UNADA members, with illicit traders selling inputs with the highest quality, followed by wholesalers.