Dialogue Issue 5: Governments urged to support seed policy

Seed policy is usually defined in terms of the legislation and regulations put in place by government to guide and control seed production and distribution. The national seed policy hinges on the national food security strategies. In many cases there is no willingness to put the policy in writing and executors of the legislation and regulations often enormously refer to government policy when they actually refer to an existing law. In fact, by definition, a policy should define the government's position and intention with regard to a particular production or service sector. Thus from a seed policy perspective, the policy expresses the government's desire for all farmers to have access to seed of improved varieties. The aim of the policy should be to improve the quantity and quality of agricultural production that in turn drives food security. The key words in a policy statement would be "improved varieties", "quality seed" and "from whatever source". Few government seed policies would be inclusive of these key words. 

The inclusion of "from whatever source" would occur in a country where seed markets are completely liberalized. This is probably the case in most SADC countries where donor funding has insisted in technology dissemination through efficient and reliable seed systems. The desire to liberalize seed markets led to complete or partial privatization of state owned seed enterprises. In Malawi for example, the government privatized the National Seed Company, which is now owned by a multinational seed company. In Mozambique, the government sold 80% of the National Seed Company SEMOC. Similar developments are taking place elsewhere in countries such as Tanzania and Uganda where the government is attempting to sell off Tanzania Seed Company (Tanseed), and Uganda Seed Project respectively. Such developments demonstrate government commitment to facilitating seed provision from whatever source. As a result of liberalization there has been an increase in foreign investment in the seed thus increasing farmer access to a wider range of crop varieties.