Seed harmonisation process advances in COMESA region

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Seed harmonization in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) countries has reached an advanced stage with individual member states conducting awareness meetings with stakeholders.

In Zambia, COMESA, through the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), held an awareness workshop in Chilanga district yesterday to sensitize stakeholders on the advantages and disadvantages of seed harmonization.

ACTESA is expected to rationalize and harmonize seed regulations and policies in its 19 member states which allow free movement of seeds with a view of promoting cross border seed trade for better access by farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa.

ACTESA Seed Expert John Mukuka said the harmonization process has reached a draft stage while consultations with stakeholders have continued before the final document is formulated.

Dr. Mukuka stated that the draft document on seed harmonization will be presented to the agriculture ministers of the COMESA member states in July this year for approval.

He said individual countries were required to look at the document and make proposals of how the process should be done.

Some agriculture experts from various agricultural institutions and nongovernmental organisations that attended the awareness meeting expressed worry that the proposed legislation that seeks to harmonize seed in the SADC and COMESA regions might make it unlawful for farmers to re-plant their harvested seed.

But Chief Seeds Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives Francisco Miti said the legislation will not stop farmers from planting seeds of their choice but will merely bring about common standards in seed certification and further reduce inspections at border posts during importation.

Dr. Miti had a tough time explaining the seed harmonization process to participants especially on the negative consequences the legislation might cause to the country.

Most farmers observed that seed harmonization will allow high quality seeds produced in Zambia to be sold in other countries, leaving Zambian small scale farmers without the commodity while others felt that the legislation will benefit other countries more than Zambia.

The new protocol seeks to harmonize the seed laws in the SADC and COMESA region.