By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states have received are edged not to fail on reaching policy targets.
This comes after regional stakeholders in the agricultural sector expressed concerns over the delay by to harmonise seed policies.
This they say is affecting access to and trade in seeds and animal breeds in the bloc.
The experts revealed that the seed regulation harmonisation programme, started in 2015 to solve these challenges, is yet to be implemented.
According to the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa, access to quality seeds and improved animal breeds by smallholder farmers stood at 20 percent in the bloc.
“The cumbersome and lengthy processes involved in developing and testing new seed varieties had hindered seed trade in the COMESA region.
The majority of the region’s population depends on agriculture to earn a living, therefore, the challenge must be addressed by member states as a matter of priority. It is not enough to talk about improving agricultural production, food safety or increasing household incomes of rural poor; farmers should have easy access to quality seeds to achieve all these targets.”
Crucially to note, is that many countries in the bloc are always food-stressed and have to rely on food handouts from the World Food Programme when the region has rich soils suitable for farming.
According to economists, it is crucial for countries in COMESA to align their national seed laws with the seed trade harmonisation regulations.
They say, “Besides increasing access to quality seeds and improved animal breeds by farmers, the move will boost production and household incomes, ensure the bloc is food secure, and help cut on the region’s seeds import bill.
This requires political will and partnership between public and private sectors.”
However, countries must ensure they preserve local breeds that are resistant to weather vagaries, particularly with the onslaught of global warming, according to global opinion.