COMESA unveils plans to curb counterfeit seeds through a common label

EASTERN AFRICA – Seed companies operating in Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states will from early next year sell seeds branded with a COMESA logo as a measure to prevent sale of uncertified products.

Dr.John Mukuka, COMESA regional seed programme coordinator, said that the labeling was necessary to wipe out counterfeit seeds from the market and improve production.

He also said the common label will help local farmers access quality certified seeds and at the same time promote trade among member states.

Companies operating within the 21 COMESA member states will now have unlimited access within the region after member states endorse the common label for certified seeds.

Speaking during a high level consultative workshop ahead of the proposed implementation of the harmonized seed regulation, Dr. Mukuka said at least 80 million farmers within the 21 COMESA member states will benefit from the venture.

“We have ordered printing of COMESA seed labels that will be used by companies so that they can cross the border without being tested at country level,” he said.

Mukuka explained that out of the 21 countries only seven countries have ratified the 2015 COMESA seed harmonization agreement that allows seed trading across the member states.

The seven countries who have harmonized the seed agreement include Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

“We are working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to bring the other 14 countries on board and we intend to finalize the road map by the end the two days meeting so that they are at par with the seven,” said Mukuka.

He added that opening up trade is an integral part of seed harmonization considering Seed industry constitutes US$70 billion globally.

The CEO argued that if Africa can harmonize and create a seed market for itself then it can be even a more lucrative market than grain, in the sense that the cost of seed worth 2 kgs is equivalent of grain that is 20kgs.

Dr. Jona Chianu Chief Agricultural Economist AfDB noted if the 21 COMESA member countries can implement harmonized policies, seed companies operating in these countries would have more space to do business, and reach even more.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was formed in December 1994 and is a free trade area with twenty-one member states.

Monsanto, MRI/Syngenta, SeedCo, Pioneer, DuPont, HZP, East African Seed, Pannar and Kenya Seed Company are some of the major seed companies operating within the COMESA member states.

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