The COMESA Business Council recently convened a webinar on “Unlocking Food Security Through Improved Seed Trade in COMESA” aimed at discussing issues of access to quality and affordable seed and challenges in trade facilitation in the movement of seed across borders amidst COVID-19.
It also discussed causes, impacts and measures to curb illicit seed trade in the region and more, towards agricultural transformation and improved agriculture trade within COMESA.
The discussion resolved that there should be the creation of simpler processes, to get permits in line and speed up the processes for clearance. Regulators need to lay down the process and speed up the process.
“There is a need for one-stop-shop to provide relevant permits for the seed industry. Currently, some of the authorities are not at one place which in turn increase costs. In Zimbabwe, for products like maize, soya beans and wheat they have a robust supply chain and regulatory support on issues of counterfeit. Most of the seed in the market are genuine, there is peer review and the seed industry assist each other to monitor seeds in the market,” resolved panellists in the discussion.
There was a resolution on the need to strengthen the supply of the volumes of truly certified seeds marketed in the region, information sharing campaigns is key to sensitize farmers on quality seeds, need to have harmonized information and data from within the Ministries of Agriculture and other agencies, to ensure that consolidated seed data is made available to inform decisions, investments and solve current challenges affecting the industry’s performance within regional trade and a need to have strong inter-agency regulatory processes and information flows, in order to map out simpler clearances processes at domestic and transboundary trade facilitation.
“There is need on the part of CBC to engage with the local seed companies and governments to strengthen the existing business environments, as this is what motivates companies to make investments in countries that they are operating in.
“Strengthen dialogue between different actors to in the seed sector is cardinal to the sustainability of the industry.
“Most countries are operating in countries that are not operating in COMESA, therefore not obliged to comply into COMESA regulations. However, they are aligned to ISTA or OECD regulations, it is important that COMESA will need to address these aspects of COMESA regulations aligning to ISTA regulations as alternative regulations to COMESA.”
The discussion resolved among several other resolutions that there is need for strong penalty charges on curbing counterfeit seeds and this should be adopted at the COMESA level to be replicated across the region.
“It is also pertinent that information sharing and sensitisation this can be done by regulators and the seed companies. There is a need for a climate of predictability if legislation or regulation is changing its supposed to be communicated in time so that companies are able to adjust accordingly.”
“There is a need for harmonisation of legislation across the region, and a clear one-stop process that supports the clearance of goods behind the border, just the same as it is done at the border.
“In Kenya and Tanzania, Bayer has introduced the e-verification system, for every barcode that has been certified and sold it will carry a sticker and number. If the number is sent it will send verification. CBC should consider replicating this process across the region.
“The issue of counterfeit seeds needs a collective approach to eradicate; regulators, seed companies, governments, associations, so that solutions that are applied in one country, are applied across the region.
“The industry needs to work together to address the challenge of counterfeit trade through the exchange of market information as an industry. There is need collaboration between various parties, government and agencies, seed companies, regional secretariats and associations, to address the issue of counterfeit products.
“There is a need to strengthen market and trade information, increase penalty and fines towards counterfeiters, and strong punitive regulations to make it very costly to sell fake counterfeits in the region. There is also an effort to come up with COMESA Seed statistic information system, this is to address the challenge of lack of real-time trade data on seeds. This is also affecting the decision-making process,” resolved discussants.