Good seed guarantees food security-Siakalenge

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Deliberations on the harmonization of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) seed trade regulations have commenced today at a workshop whose theme is “facilitating seed availability, use and trade in the COMESA region."


The workshop is aimed at sharing the status of domestication of the seed trade harmonization protocols in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East Africa Community (EAC) and the Association for Strengthening Agriculture Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).


Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Permanent Secretary Siazongo Siakalenge said government recognizes the importance of agriculture in securing economic growth for Zambia and the COMESA region.


Mr. Siakalenge said government was therefore ready to support initiatives that are aimed at enhancing its policy of developing a sustainable, diversified and competitive agricultural sector that guarantees food security at both household and national levels.


He said this in a speech read on his behalf by Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Director of Livestock Emma Malawo during the seed regional awareness creation workshop in Lusaka today.


He stated that the seed industry was not yet fully developed to provide a variety of quality seeds to farmers.


Mr. Siakalenge said the region will be better positioned to support a viable and thriving seed industry by removing restrictions on import and export of seeds across borders.


He added that this will make regional markets more attractive and commercially viable.


He further said government was happy to be part of the harmonization of the seed trade which he said will enhance access to seed through simplified customs procedures, speedier seed variety release and distribution into the COMESA region.


The Permanent Secretary said it was for this reason that a lot of emphasis has been placed on increasing productivity and value addition on agricultural products to increase income generated from these products by commercial and small scale farmers.


“Governments in the COMESA region are making concerted efforts to make quality seed available to all farmers as the first step in ensuring increased yields by our farmers. This is because making available quality seeds to our farmers will ensure that there is fast and uniform emergence of seedling once planted,” he said.


Mr. Siakalenge has since commended the work of COMESA in harmonising seed trade in the region saying this will expand the supply of quality seed by integrating different seed suppliers into a common COMESA market.


And the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Chief Executive Officer Argent Chuula said poor agricultural policies, unsustainable farming practices and seed insecurity were among the major reasons for food insecurity.


Mr. Chuula said an improved policy environment was critically required to address and enhance development of a viable seed sector in eastern and southern Africa.


He disclosed that the draft COMESA seed trade harmonization regulations were already in place awaiting endorsements by the region’s Ministers of Agriculture and Environment in June this year which will be followed by the endorsement of the regulations of the Attorney Generals or Ministers of Justice.


Mr. Chuula stated that once approved, the regulation will be binding on the region and will facilitate farmers’ access to improved seed varieties and quality.


Other objectives of the workshop are to create awareness on the draft COMESA seed trade harmonisation regulations and map a strategy for its implementation when domesticated in the member states.


It is also aimed at discussing challenges and opportunities for regional seed variety release, seed certification and pest quarantine and to develop a practical road map on the domestication of the draft COMESA trade harmonization regulations.