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Smallholder farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa are often denied access to quality seed due to high prices and lack of knowledge on the importance of using good seed among other factors.

Hence the domestication of harmonised seed regulations among the COMESA member States will encourage private sector investments in improved seeds and increase production and trade through a reduction in the cost of business.

Ethiopia State Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resource, Mr Wondirad Mandefro told delegates attending the COMESA Seed Mutual Accountability Workshop in Addis Ababa early this week, the Seed Harmonization Strategy would contribute to a reduction and stabilization of prices of seed and make it more affordable to the smallholder farmers within the region.

“The crucial input for agricultural productivity is seed”, the Minister said in a speech presented by Director Plant Health Regulatory Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Wolde Hawariat Assefa.

Mandefro said Ethiopia actively participated when COMESA developed the harmonized COMESA seed Trade Regulations and was the host during the technical validation of COMSHIP in April 2014.

“We are also pleased that COMSHIP is striving to contribute accelerated agricultural seed growth in the private sector that will bring about a well-structured seed industry development that is not only necessary but very essential,” he said adding that agriculture was the main stay of the Ethiopian economy contributing to the national GDP currently at $118 billion.

Speaking at the same forum, Team Leader FoodTrade Eastern and Southern Africa, Mr Marc Van Uytvanck, said the investment of US$1.8 million will assist the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) to facilitate the domestication of harmonised seed trade regulations in the Eastern and Southern Africa.

He added that FoodTrade through ACTESA will organize dialogues and activities with member states to promote and accelerate seed reforms at the national level in Zambia, Burundi, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.

“Our objective is to create awareness and assist the private sector to push for greater reforms and open up opportunities through cross border trade by producers, traders and farmers”. Mr Uytvanckn said.

And Mr Argent Chuula, the Chief Executive Officer ACTESA, in a speech read by Getachew Belay, Biotechnology Policy Advisor said COMESA has developed the COMESA Variety Catalogue which is on-line and can be accessed by the seed companies anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet.

“The COMESA Variety catalogue is a gateway for the quality and improved seed that targets 80 million small-holder farmers in the region,” Mr. Chuula observed.

He added that there are many benefits that will contribute significantly to COMESA intra-seed trade which is currently less than 10% to increase to about 50% and enhance agricultural growth leading to regional integration.

The meeting was supported by USAID and organized by AfricaLead II. The platform dubbed ‘Seed Mutual Accountability Meeting’ discussed constructive and effective ways for the private seed sector to trade their seed effectively in an organized manner. The forum brought together representatives from the COMESA member states, development partners, and farmer associations.