Lusaka - The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will in the next five years more than double seed trade revenue to US$5 billion among member states by promoting labels and certification.
Labels and certification form part of implementation of the COMESA Seed Harmonisation Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) to boost seed trade from the current US$2 billion.
In 2015, COMESA agriculture ministers endorsed the Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations, which led to COMSHIP.
The region’s seed profile has been characterised by fragmented and small markets, with countries pursuing their own policies and regulations, something COMESA wants to resolve.
This state of affairs results in high operating costs and the proliferation of low quality seeds, which in turn contributes to food insecurity.
Recently, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa - a COMESA agency - conducted training for chief executives and technical managers of nine private seed companies to acquaint them with how to get the most out of labelling and certification.
The region hopes that the harmonisation plan will encourage participation in the COMESA Harmonised Seed Trading Platform.
In a statement, the bloc’s Secretary-General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe said the region was producing 500,000 tonnes of seed against potential of two million tonnes.
“This scenario has contributed to the high levels of food insecurity and hunger as production is affected by farmers who do not use high quality and improved seeds in their fields,” she added.
The COMESA Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations were developed to enhance seed production, seed trade, reliability and competitiveness.
Eight COMESA members have fully aligned their national seed laws to the bloc’s system.
As such, 13 seed companies who meet COMESA Variety Catalogue are now trading on the basis of the bloc’s regulations in Burundi, Egypt, Malawi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In compliant countries, pre-inspection of seed consignments will no longer be necessary as long as the variety is registered on the COMESA Variety Catalogue. When registered, the variety can be produced and traded in any COMESA member.
COMSHIP has been launched in 17 COMESA countries: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.