Apr 20 , 2019

Ethiopia has drafted its first ever seed policy that will administer the whole seed value chain from production to distribution with the aim of ensuring a timely and quality supply of seeds to farmers.

Drafted by a task force composed of experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ethiopian Development Research Institute over the past two years, the policy was submitted for approval to the Council of Ministers two months ago.

The policy covers the activities and involvement of stakeholders in the processes of variety development, production and distribution to smallholder farmers.

“The policy will attempt to rectify challenges faced by smallholder farmers in getting quality seeds in a timely fashion,” said Tefera Zeray, Seed Unit Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture.

During the drafting process, the task force considered the experiences of India, Germany, Indonesia, Vietnam and Kenya as a reference point.

The policy aims at enhancing productivity, assuring biodiversity conservation, maintaining seed security, modernising and developing a globally competent seed industry by giving special emphasis to the private sector, according to the draft policy.

"It will enable the country to become self-sustained in seed supply, substitute seed imports and generate income from the export of seeds," reads the draft policy.

Agricultural data and analysis show that the improved seeds help farmers to increase productivity up to 40pc.

Even though the economy of the country depends mainly on agriculture, with 80pc of the population considered agrarian, Ethiopia's use of improved seeds is estimated to be less than 20pc. However, the country has improved the supply of improved seeds from 551,000ql in 2017 to 768,000ql the following year.

The improved seeds are produced and supplied by five public enterprises, 45 private domestic companies, 14 unions, 150 cooperatives and a few national private seed companies, including research institutions. The five enterprises cover 70pc of seed supply at a national level, while seed unions and private suppliers cover 20pc and 10pc of the supply, respectively.

Participation of the private sector in improved seed production and supply is in its infancy, according to Mulugeta Enki, the secretariat of the Ethiopian Seed Association. The Association has 36 members including individuals, cooperatives and public institutions engaged in public and private seed production, distribution and trade.

"Over a third of seed varieties are released and supplied by public enterprises," Mulugeta told Fortune.

As of 2017, the country released a total of 1,198 varieties of seeds, of which 421 are cereal crops, where 223 and 111 are pulse and oil crops, respectively. There are also more than 233 tubers, roots and vegetable seeds.

Ethiopian Seed Supply Corporation, one of the five domestic suppliers, was established in 1978 and operated for three decades as the sole seed supplier.

The other four seed enterprises are located in Oromia, Amhara, SNNP and the Somali regional states. The five enterprises have their own lands totaling 38,000ha to produce the seed by growing crops on their farms. Oromia Seed Enterprise possesses the largest area at 28,000ha.

Hussien Mohammed (PhD), a lecturer and researcher for more than a decade in Hawassa University's School of Plant & Horticultural Science, sees the new policy from the perspective of ensuring food security by increasing productivity.

"The policy will also help the country conserve and regulate its endangered indigenous crop seeds,” he said.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 20,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 990]

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