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Intraregional seed trade is set for a boost following the introduction of seed labels and certificates to be utilized by seed companies for large consignment crossing the borders. The move is intended to spur regional trade through improved seed varieties across the region.

The COMESA Seed Labels and Certificates will be used by member States to identity seeds in the market that meets the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations of 2014.

This development is line with the COMESA Seed Harmonization and Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) that provides a framework for the 19 COMESA Member States to trade, facilitate seed industry and support local seed companies.

Samples of the labels and certificates were presented during a one day meeting of regional seed companies and National Seed Review teams from seven COMESA Member States that have aligned their national seed laws to the COMESA Seed Policies.

Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi participated in the meeting alongside 20 seed companies in the eastern and southern Africa region.

COMESA Alliance of Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) and the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) organized the meeting.

The COMESA seed labels are based on the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and will apply to four seed classes: Pre-basic Seed, Basic Seed, Certified Seed (1st Generation) and Certified Seed (2nd Generation).

According to Dr John Mukuka, the Seed Expert at ACTESA, the certificates will be given to a seed company upon verification that a Seed Lot is of a released variety on the regional catalogue.He said the procurement of the labels and certificates will be done in the course of July and ready for use in August 2017.

“Seed exporting companies will be issued with a COMESA Regional Seed Certificate to confirm they are qualified,” Dr Mukuka said.

The labels and certificates are designed to certify the seeds as having been produced in accordance with all the requirements the COMESA Seed Certification System as provided by the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations.

Further, they will verify that seed multiplication was registered, inspected and met COMESA field standards and that the Seed Lot meets the minimum laboratory seed analysis standards of the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations.

The labels will be tagged on bags of seeds that will be traded across the countries that have aligned their national seed laws with COMESA harmonized laws. Currently, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zimbabwe have completed aligning their national seed laws while Malawi and Zambia are in final stages of the process.

Following the endorsement of the proposed documents, a regional firm will be contracted to formulate and design the COMESA Seed Labels. The design will take into account consistency in quality and numbering. To ensure readability the labels will incorporate machine-readable features, security features and traceability across COMESA Member States

Dr Mukuka said: “The contracted firm will be the sole printer of the COMESA Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations documentations. The firm will come up with control measures for labels branding, printing, issuance and accountability of the documents and printed in English, French and Arabic, the COMESA official languages.”

Working with the National Seed Authorities the COMESA ACTESA will authorise the issuance of the COMESA Seed Labels and Seals for the seed companies.

Eventually, the COMESA Seed Lot consignment will be incorporated into the COMESA Virtual Trade Facilitation System (CVTFS), an online system used for processing trade facilitation instruments and cargo monitoring.