COMESA region’s cereal productivity affected by low seed quality

AFRICA – COMESA regions cereal productivity has remained low despite the high production potential that the region holds, greatly attributed to small- holder farmers’ limited access to improved seeds.

New Times Rwanda reports that of the more than 80 million small holder farmers, only about 23% have access to improved seeds, a situation which has resulted into low productivity of cereals.

Maize, sorghum and pearl millet are the most affected cereals which has caused the region to struggle with food production and security.

Speaking during a meeting on Implementation of Harmonized Seed Regulations in Eastern and Southern Africa, John Mukuka, a COMESA seed expert said food insecurity in the region is yet to be addressed.

“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 more than 130 million out of 600 million people in the region,” he said.

According to Mukukas report, only 7 out of the 21 states in the Eastern and Southern Africa have so far harmonized their national seed regulations with the regional seed trade harmonization regulations.

These include Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

COMESA adopted the harmonisation in a bid to improve seed trade between the member states as a strategy to curb the widespread food insecurity status.

In addition, COMESA has integrated other components for harmonisation in 2019 which include 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.

Prof Hamadi Iddi Boga, the Kenya agriculture ministry principal secretary, among other participants urged speed up harmonisation of the seeds policies.

Other than the 7 countries that have competed the harmonisation process, other 6 have aligned their domestic seed laws with the regional regulations and are expected to join the list of compliant states by end of 2019.

They include Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia and Mauritius with Comoros, Eritrea, Madagascar, Seychelles and Sudan having already launched the harmonisation plan and will soon begin the process.

COMESA Seed Harmonisation Implementation Plan is implemented by the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), outlines the implementation plans and modalities at national and regional level to facilitate regional trade in the seed sector.

COMESA has also developed seed labels and certificates to facilitate regional seed trade.

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