Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Relief seed study in South Africa
Importance, impact on seed trade, and recommendations
August 2006
Wynand J van der Walt

Executive summary

Relief seed systems in the SADC region have been in place for many years and seem to continue for the foreseeable future.

This report represents the results of a study commissioned by FANRPAN on the extent of and impact on the commercial seed trade in South Africa. The objective was to determine the extent of relief seed by volume and value, its impact on the evolution and functioning of the seed industry, and proposals for improving relief seed systems.

The study was based on identification of key stakeholders in relief seed, estimates on volumes and values of such seed, and views expressed by seed companies, relief agencies and NGOs. In the absence of significant organized relief systems for seed in South Africa, the focus was on determining the volumes and value of relief seed exported to SADC states and the impact that it has had on the local seed industry.

The South African commercial seed industry has not been affected to any extent by relief seed practices within the country as such systems are of minor importance. The direct impact on domestic seed companies by relief seed in SADC has been two-fold: firstly, that a small number of seed companies have specialized in selling seed to agencies, governments and NGOs and, secondly, that those companies not involved, felt that tender processes were not favourable for more expensive quality seeds. Complete statistics on seed sold for relief distribution could not be obtained from relief organizations or companies; hence, data are based on best estimates from what was available and communicated..

Results showed that maize was by far the major seed exported for relief purposes and it involved almost equal quantities of OPV and hybrids. Other major food species were sorghum, groundnuts, dry beans, millet and cowpeas. Less information was available on vegetable seeds but onions, carrots, tomato, pumpkins, and cabbages were the major species of which seed was exported into Africa. The share intended for relief could not be determined from the data available.

Major recipient countries were Angola and Zimbabwe, with less volumes going to other SADC states.

The benefit for South Africa was an additional market for exports, important in view of the sharp decline in seed turnover due to the slump in maize cropping this past year. Estimated relief maize seed exported was 13 900 metric tons which amounted to 77 % of the maize seed export market by volume and 65% by value. Total volume of agronomic relief seed exported was 23 594 MT, valued at $54.2 million and this constituted 19% of the total domestic and export seed turnover in 2005/2006.

Following inputs from various stakeholders, certain recommendations have been developed as seen from the South African seed industry's perspective.

  • Seed production requires several years of planning and availability to good quality seed can be assured by improved forward planning and closer interaction between governments, seed companies, relief organizations and farmers.
  • Minimum quality standards will reduce the risk of poor seed and this should form part of the tender processes, but enforcement by importing countries is required, also for varietal purity.
  • Procurement and delivery may involve several intermediaries and it is recommended that adequate documentation and proper labeling of seed containers be enforced so that a traceability system is in place in case of any complaints or recalls.
  • Seed law harmonization will facilitate seed movement, variety listing and adherence to quality.
  • Procurement parties need to avoid least cost seed that may compromise quality.
  • Relief seed can have a better chance of success if it form part of starter packs that contain fertilizer and pesticides, supported by extension services, especially if vegetable seeds can be added to grain crop seeds. This will enhance a more balanced nutrition and food security through the year.

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