Panel discussion: What can we learn from the research?

The current Chairperson of the Uganda Agribusiness Alliance and former Minister for Agriculture, Honourable Victoria Sekitoleko, opened discussion. Welcoming IGC’s initiative to host this forum, she congratulated the researchers for delivering important factual evidence that can guide policy discussion. In her remarks, she emphasized that resources dedicated to enforce regulations are inadequate, and that solutions lie with government as well as with farmers and private sector players. A point in case she raised is the re-packaging of inputs, asking: Is there nothing that can be done? Points of discussion raised by Hon. Sekitoleko were complemented with a long session of questions from the audience. General opinions voiced in the discussion were that a lot lies on the shoulders of the MAAIF, who currently doesn’t use its resources effectively. Why for example, asked the audience, have no arrests been made for counterfeiting? Who controls the controls? Is counterfeit being imported, suggesting that the MAAIF cooperate more closely with URA, or produced in the country?

The discussion took an interesting turn when it centred on farmer’s perceptions and knowledge. In this context, Prof. Svensson pointed out that to move out of the low quality – low trust – low adoption equilibrium, interventions to increase the quality of agricultural inputs need to be accompanied by interventions to change farmers’ perceptions and improve companies reputations. This is because agricultural inputs are experience goods, and perceptions only change slowly, so that improvements of the average quality of inputs available on the market by themselves will not lead to high uptake, at least in the short term.

Towards the end of the discussion, the Director of Crop Resources, Mr. Okaasai Opolot from MAAIF joined the event, and delivered the closing remarks for the morning session. He echoed Hon Sekitoleko in emphasizing the importance of the event. He acknowledged that the MAAIF has not been effective enough in enforcing regulation, but justified this with resource shortages. He also explained that occasional arrests have been made, and that the recent formation of an agricultural police will help improve enforcement further. He noted that ultimately, there will have to be cooperation with suppliers, whom he wants to make responsible for following the quality of inputs sold by retailers, as well as with farmers, who need to be empowered with bottom-up verification systems.  This, he explained, is particularly important in light of the discussion of subsidies for agricultural inputs.