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Maize seed stakeholders agree on policy actions in sub-Saharan Africa

On July 28, 2008, more than 60 senior policy makers from agriculture ministries, private seed companies, seed trade associations, regional trade blocs from 13 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries met in Nairobi, Kenya during the Regional Policy Workshop on Maize Seed Sector Development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Key participants included the Kenya Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Japheth Mbiuki; Kenya Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome; Tanzania Agriculture Permanent Secretary Peniel Lyimo; the Assistant Secretary General of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Ambassador Nagla El-Hussainy; the Secretary General of the African Seed Traders Association (AFSTA), Justin Rakotoarisaona; CEO’s of seed trade associations, and heads of agricultural research institutions and seed services. The meeting was organized jointly by CIMMYT and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), through the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project.

The experts discussed the challenges and opportunities for maize seed sector development in Africa, as identified in a 2007 maize seed sector survey – “An Assessment of the Institutional Bottlenecks Affecting the Production and Deployment of Maize Seed in Africa,” – conducted by Augustine Langyintuo, CIMMYT Economist and Diakalia Sanogo, IITA Economist.

In his remarks, the Kenya Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Japheth Mbiuki, lauded CIMMYT and IITA on conducting the maize seed sector report and organizing the stakeholder workshop to discuss its policy recommendations. He said, “The Kenya government is supporting the maize seed sector through initiatives such as increasing investments in agricultural research and extension; training of agrodealers and developing the National Seed Industry Policy.”

CIMMYT Global Maize Program Director, Marianne Bänziger emphasized the need to increase improved maize seed supplies beyond the current 28% levels: “Droughts and national production fluctuations are realities. Effective trade between countries and risk insurance strategies that better buffer seed supply within countries are at the core of stabilizing and increasing maize production.”

The meeting identified cumbersome seed policies, inadequate access to credit, a weak producer base, slow access to the best germplasm, and uncompetitive prices in local grain markets as the main issues hindering a more rapid development of the maize sector. “60% of seed companies’ investments go into seed production. They therefore need affordable credit over the mid to long term for them to produce enough seed to meet farmers’ needs,” said DTMA Project Leader, Wilfred Mwangi.

“Specific actions and commitments by national governments include committing increased funds (at least 10% of their national budgets) for agricultural development and harmonization of regional seed regulations which will improve rates of variety release, lower costs in dealing with regulatory authorities, increase trade in seed of improved varieties and ultimately (their) adoption by famers” said Ambassador Nagla El-Hussainy, COMESA Assistant Secretary General. Obongo Nyachae, CEO of STAK said “The national seed policies in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are at various levels of development and we are pushing for harmonization.”