Charles Mulinge(Managing Director, Farmchem Limited) was not working at Farmchem in the 1980s but remembers the decade when the company first came face to face with counterfeiting of its products. Then, its popular, fast selling coffee spray product, Copper Nordox, was the target.
Almost 30 years later, the problem of fake agrochemicals is still around, has become more lucrative and the counterfeiters are smarter. And more of the firm’s products have since fallen in the hands of the fakers. These include Nordox, Cuprocaffaro, Danadim, Maize and Glean.
As we went to press, the agro-chemical fraternity was keenly watching the development of a case involving their latest catch – a prominent Githunguri stockist who was caught dealing in an assortment of fake agrochemicals and seeds.
The events leading to the arrest and subsequent arraigning of the suspect in court, while an achievement for the industry as it grapples with the growing problem has underscored the need for the cooperation of law enforcement officers, who Mr Mulinge said have not been proactive in arresting suspects immediately the whistle is blown.
“It took the intervention of a sen¬ior administration official to get the man arrested”, Mr Mulinge said add-ing that the sector will not relent in its endeavour to end the malprac-tice.
According to the chairman of the AAK-led anti-counterfeits committee, D.K. Kagwe, counterfeiters target popular products and are be-coming smarter especially now that technology has made it possible to print packaging materials that resemble the genuine ones.
“Since the counterfeiters are get¬
ting smarter, and target well-known products, the industry must find a way round them,” he said.
The agrochemical fraternity has enjoined the support of the Kenya Anti-counterfeit Authority, the Pesticides Control Products Board, Seed quality regulator – Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate and the police as it ups its game in the wake of what is increasingly becoming a nightmare.
If found guilty, the Githunguri businessman faces a fine of Ksh1 million or two years in jail or both. The punitive measures were introduced last year following an outcry by the industry over what they termed as a lenient penalty of Ksh20,000 that applied before then. The low fine did not deter offenders whose illegitimate business rakes in millions therefore, they would pay up and continue.
“The new law will reduce the counterfeiting incidents”, Mr Kagwe said.
The suspect was caught with fake products and packaging materials for seeds and pesticides, showing how entrenched counterfeiting has become. Looking at Farmchem’s genuine pioneer maize and a fake, one can only tell the difference after critically examining
Nordox, Cuprocaffaro, Danadim, Maize and Glean
Mr Mulinge said that they have started changing packaging to make it more difficult to copy, and embarked on educating farmers on how to spot the difference.
Among the measures the industry is taking is centralizing printing of labels and packaging materials to control the amounts being re¬
leased, which has been identified as a major loophole as printers make excess materials and sell them to the fakers. “Printing of fake labels and packaging materials has be-come a lucrative business”, said Mr Mulinge.
Sadly, the farmer never gets to know until the product doesn’t work, and then he runs to the maker of the chemical who has no way of knowing who sold it he added.
He reiterated that farmers must only purchase products from registered and certified sources.
According to Prof Vassey Mwaja, the general manager of Juanco SPS, and former chairman of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK), fakers are giving players sleepless nights as they have be-
come smarter as counterfeit products reach alarming levels.
Farmchem managing director Charles Mulinge. the company products are among the most targeted by counterfeiters
The industry and the government must be on the alert because “for every new invention, there is a fake within six months”, added Agrochemical Association of Kenya chairman A.K .Otieno. Mr Otieno is the chief executive officer of Top serve that represents among other companies, BASF. He said that none of his products has been touched yet, but he knows it it just a matter of time.
The same case applies to Mr Kagwe, whose two-year-old Profarm is so aware of the lurking danger and can hope that by the time its products catch the attention of the counterfeiters, the industry will have sufficient arsenal.