Working with AGRA to Fast Track Seed Harmonization

Lusaka, Monday, March 30, 2020: Lack of quality and improved seed in the COMESA Member States has contributed significantly to food insecurity and poverty with 123 million people out of total population of 650 million (22.8 percent in sub-Saharan Africa) affected.

In light of this, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), a Specialized Agency of COMESA, has been working with Member States’ governments and  non-governmental organizations in joint strategies to respond to food insecurity challenges in the region.

Currently, ACTESA is collaborating with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to fast-track trading by seed companies on the harmonized COMESA Seed Trade Platform. A draft proposal between COMESA and AGRA has been developed aimed at contributing to regional seed trade in staple food crops of maize, rice, cotton, soybeans and rice in the region.

The draft agreement of COMESA and AGRA with its COMSHIP consortium members titled: “Improved Regional Seed Trade in the Common Market for East and Southern Africa” is expected to establish a regional platform for regulatory dialogue and learning trips as well as enhancing the efficiency of information and communication technology (ICT) systems used to clear shipments at borders.

According to ACTESA Seed Expert Dr John Mukuka, over 500 million people living in the region depend on seed-based crops such as beans, maize, rice, cotton, wheat, cassava, potatoes, soya beans and small grains for their livelihoods.

“The availability of quality seed in this region in terms of variety, accessibility, and volume currently stands at a meagre 25%,” he said. “Total seed being traded in the COMESA Member States, as of beginning of 2020 is averaging  USD1.9 billion, equivalent to less than 2% of global seed trade values and volumes.”

With a harmonized system, seed trade within the region is expected to grow from $1.9 billion to $5 billion in the next ten years as a result of the incentives embedded in the COMESA Seed Harmonisation Implementation Plan (COMSHIP).

Last month, COMESA and AGRA held a joint meeting with its COMSHIP Consortium Members, namely African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), Cellsoft Technologies, New Markets Lab (NML), Emerge Centre for Innovations (ECI) and AGcuity Consulting in Nairobi, Kenya to finalize activities to be implemented on the overall project.

The meeting also reviewed the approach used by private sector towards regional variety catalogues and support to the development of a digital information portal in each country for access to information on seed trade volumes.

COMSHIP consortium members also agreed to support seed trade associations to play key advocacy roles in seed trade, including the implementation of harmonized seed laws in their individual countries.

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