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Lusaka, Friday 6 April 2018: COMESA, through its specialized agency the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) has facilitated the launch of the regional Seed Trade Harmonisation Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) in Eritrea, making it the 18th COMESA country to launch the programme.

COMSHIP aims to help Member States and the region increase production, trade, availability of quality seed and making the industry competitive in the nineteen countries.

The launch in Eritrea is a step closer to improving crop yields for an estimated 80 million smallholder farmers in the region.

ACTESA Seed Expert Dr John Mukuka, who participated at the launch described the development as positive and a step closer to realizing the goal of the regional seed programme.

He pointed out that “Once fully implemented, COMSHIP will help small scale farmers provide food for household needs, and excess for sale into local and regional markets. We shall also see an increase in household incomes which shall in turn increase intra-COMESA seed trade.”

Dr Mukuka added that COMSHIP has been well received by COMESA Member States and soon the programme will be launched in the entire bloc. The determination of this seed programme to produce positive results was supported by the government of Eritrea, which depends on the informal market to provide seeds.

Mr Heruy Asghedom, the Director General in the Agricultural Extension Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of the State of Eritrea revealed that with no developed seed systems in place, Eritrea needs help to develop a National Seed Trade Association, which will empower small-scale seed producers and grow its seed industry.

“We need to improve the availability of quality seed and other agro inputs or else we will not attain the Sustainable Development Goals on ending poverty and hunger,” Mr Asghedom said during the launch on 29th March 2018.

The implementation of COMSHIP is expected to improve the regulatory environment and remove trade barriers to allow the growth of the seed industry providing improvements to a sustained, affordable and reliable choice and diversity of high-quality seeds tested and registered in local market conditions.

So far COMSHIP has been launched in 17 COMESA countries namely Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

These countries are at different levels of development for their seed industries. Some do not have any Acts or regulations on seed, others have draft seed regulations, while some are operational or already existing seed regulations.

However, the responsibility is on each Member State to domesticate these COMSHIP Regulations by either adopting them in those countries that do not have any or by adapting existing regulations to bring them into compliance and ensure their enforcements.