By Taonga Sabola:
Time is quickly running out for offenders in the seed industry as the draft Seed Bill 2019 proposes tough fines and custodial sentences.
The draft bill comes at a time unscrupulous traders have infiltrated the market and continue to deceive unsuspecting farmers by selling them fake seed, a development which has resulted in poor harvests over the years.
Unlike the 1996 Seed Act which stipulated fines amounting to K1 million for various offences, the new legislation, currently undergoing consultations, could see judges slapping offenders with fines not exceeding K50 million and custodial sentences.
According to the draft bill, any prescribed seed found to be fake or found not to conform to standards of moisture content, defects, purity and germination shall not be sold by any person, for sowing, save with the consent, in writing, of the Director General of the National Seed Commission.
It notes that a person who sells fake seed or is found not to conform with standards commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding K50 million and to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years.
The bill adds that a person who sells, for sowing, any prescribed seed under a description other than its varietal name commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding K35 million and to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years.
The bill adds that a person who tampers with any seed so as to ensure that any samples of such seed do not correctly represent the bulk from which the sample was taken commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding K50 million and to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years.
Farmers Union of Malawi Chief Executive Officer, Prince Kapondamgaga, said the penalties could bring sanity to the seed business.
“The penalties are very strong in that the maximum penalty for seed related contraventions by various seed practitioners (traders, producers, processors, officers, companies, among others) is a fine not exceeding K50 million and imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. This is a significant increase from the previous Seed Act, 1996 whose penalties were very lenient with maximum penalty being less than K1 million and less than two years imprisonment.
“The new Seed Bill 2019 definitely sends a serious signal to all seed practitioners to put their acts together to ensure sanity in the seed sector, to remain committed to providing quality seed products and services and to ensure the protection of farmers and thereby transform the agricultural sector,” Kapondamgaga said.
The draft Seed Bill provides for the regulation and control of production, processing, sale, importation, exportation and testing of seed, and further to provide for the certification of seed, regulation of release and maintenance of seed varieties.
Stakeholders will meet in Lilongwe next week to give their final input on the bill.