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COMESA policy to harmonise seed trade

LUSAKA, Zambia Dec 7 – The COMESA region will by mid next year have a policy that seeks to harmonise seed trade in the 19 member countries to increase the availability of quality seeds to small scale farmers.

Delegates from the member states are meeting in Lusaka, Zambia to work on a technical agreement which will then be forwarded to the COMESA Council of Ministers for approval.

“Quality seed is key to increased agricultural productivity as it is a basis for farmers to be engaged in production. Without quality seed, use of inorganic fertilizer or bio-fertiliser, small-scale farmer irrigation, use of plant protection products and good agricultural practice will be rendered useless,” said Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa boss Chris Muyunda.

Currently, the regional bloc’s seed development is hampered by constraints such as low agricultural inputs, limited access to good seed, pests and diseases and the lack of harmonised and rationalised trade.

Harmonisation of the trade is however one intervention whose implementation will result in the growth of the seed industry as well as a more efficient movement of different seed varieties within the region and beyond.

Increased yields, economies of scale and simplified customs procedures are other benefits that will be accrued once the program is executed.

“National markets for Eastern and Southern Africa are too small to support a viable and thriving seed industry. But once the harmonisation process is completed, the regional markets will become attractive and commercially viable,” underscored the CEO said in a speech read by his Chief Finance Officer Gizila Takavarasha.

The seed harmonisation agenda will concentrate on 12 staple crops including maize, rice, sorghum, groundnuts, cotton, beans, cassava, wheat, potato, sunflower, soya beans and millet. 

The initiative is being carried out under the COMESA Regional Agro-inputs Programme (COMRAP) which was designed to increase the partner states’ capacity in agro-dealership, micro-finance support to smallholder farmers and alignment of regulations in the seed sector.

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COMRAP is currently in the process of procuring laboratory for the members that will assist in seed certification, inspections and testing which will be done through their national seed authorities.

It also falls under the bigger umbrella of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme whose objective is to revive agriculture as the engine of economic growth for the continent and ensure that it can withstand food price shocks and fluctuations.

Also present at the opening of the certification workshop was Zambian Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Abedanigo Banda who challenged COMESA to draw lessons from what has been achieved within the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community which started to harmonise the seed trade since the 1980s.

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