Agribusiness investors have raised concern over stringent rules on purchase of agricultural inputs including seeds, fertiliser and crop protection products that are making it difficult for them to penetrate the market.
They are calling for harmonisation of standards and mutual recognition across the region because East African region still applies different rules on registration, testing and certification of farm inputs.
“Some technologies take up two seasons to test and get registered in some countries, in others they take three years.
This means that one has to repeat the same process every time you enter a market. In some situations we decide not to do any investment due to the time and costs it takes vis-à-vis the size of the market,” said Peter Veal, head of marketing and commercial operations at Syngenta.
Syngenta is an input firm specializing in hybrid seeds as well as crop protection technologies across the world.
Syngenta, which has operations in Kenya, said it has found it hard to expand some of its technologies to Tanzania and Rwanda due to restrictive regulations.
“We don’t sell our crop protection products to Rwanda for that very reason. Regulations say we need another label, we have to do tests over again, and that prevents farmers from having access to our technologies.” Mr Veal added.
Experts argue that the regulations could be blamed for limited access to good seeds, pests and diseases control products in countries. These, they said have a bearing on the agriculture output alongside adverse weather and land fragmentation.
Hardly meeting demand
Felistars Obonyo, Syngenta official in Kenya, warned that unless the countries expedite a harmonisation of regulations, boosting agricultural productivity to meet demands for food could remain far from being achieved.
The countries in the region find provision of quality inputs, farm innovation and technologies key to transforming the largely substance agriculture into market-oriented sector.
Governments early this year embarked on a development of common mechanism of handling agro-chemicals to allow applicants for the registration of farm input undergo a single assessment by one regulator using protocols acceptable across the board.
Rwanda Today learnt that consultations had been conducted to inform a draft common legislation but the policy is yet to be approved by parties.
Strict regulatory systems were largely informed by individual country’s concerns around environmental deterioration and adverse impacts of products on health of consumers.
A harmonised protocol would see each EAC member state obliged to subject all new pest control products or new uses of existing pest control products to a thorough efficacy evaluation before they are authorized.
Should the draft legislation be approved by partner states, however, its guidelines will be piloted for the first three years before full mutual recognition can be operationalised.