Yellow maize seeds

Uganda is among the seven Comesa countries out the 21 States that have so far harmonized their national seed regulations with the regional seed trade harmonization regulations. Others that have harmonised their seed regulations are; Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The harmonization of seed laws under the COMESA Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) was adopted by the COMESA Council of Ministers in 2014, as a strategy to trigger seed trade, which is currently low across the region and a cause for food insecurity.

Presenting the status report during a two-day High Level Consultative Workshop on The Implementation of Harmonized Seed Regulations in Eastern and Southern Africa, 13 – 14 December 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya, COMESA Seed Expert Dr John Mukuka said the framework was intended to address the lack of quality seed in the region which has led to food insecurity.

“Within the agricultural sector, access to improved or quality seed by our 80 million small-holder farmers in the COMESA region is low at 23 percent,” he said. “This has resulted in low productivity especially on cereals like maize, sorghum and pearl millet.”

He noted that despite the COMESA countries having most of the global arable land the region, food production was not rising in tandem with population growth.

“The population in the COMESA countries is increasing at 2.3% while food production was at 2%, a situation that has brought about food insecurity to 130 million out of 600 million people in the region,” Dr Mukuka told the delegates who comprised of seed experts from 16 COMESA Member States.

COMSHIP is one of the component in the entire value-addition chain; from agro-inputs, to output markets and financial markets with potential to spur regional seed trade. The other components that COMESA has lined up for harmonization from 2019 are: fertilizer standards; grades and standards for staple foods (maize, beans and rice); warehouse receipt system; implementation of the Regional Food Balance Sheet including Informal Cross Border Monitoring and Livestock Feed Sector.

In addition to the seven countries that have completed the harmonization process, an additional six have launched the COMSHIP and development/ alignment of their domestic seed laws with the regional regulations and are expected to join the list of compliant States by end of 2019. They are Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, and Eswatini.

Others that have launched the seed harmonization plan and preparing to begin the alignment process are: Comoros, Eritrea, Madagascar, Seychelles and Sudan. Only three COMESA States are yet to launch the plan. They are Libya and the new member States (that joined COMESA in July 2018) Tunisia and Somalia.

At the close of the meeting, delegates endorsed COMESA decision to embark on testing the COMSHIP in the countries that have completed harmonization of seed regulations so that seed companies, with varieties on the COMESA Seed Variety Catalogue can trade as soon as possible.

COMSHIP is implemented by the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), a specialized agency of COMESA and provides a framework of implementation plans and modalities at national and regional level to facilitate regional trade in the seed sector.

Meanwhile, COMESA has developed Seed Labels and Certificates to facilitate regional seed trade. Dr Mukuka told the delegates that 4.5 million COMESA Seed Labels and 2,500 Certificates will be ready by the first quarter of 2019 for use by major seed companies in the region.

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