The policy of free movement of good and persons within the West Africa Sub region is the premise for the development of a cross border seed trade agreement. The entirety of the harmonsiation of seed trade agreement among member states in the sub region is to ensure that farmers across the sub region not only have access to good quality seeds, but have a regular supply of quality seeds seen as a first step towards achieving increased agricultural output and food sufficiency. SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, Adelola Amihere writes on how the harmonsied seed trade agreement among ECOWAS states is helping to strengthen the regional seed industry especially the seed industry in Nigeria.
In recognition of the important role good quality seed play in increasing agricultural productivity. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the harmonized regional seed regulation in 2008. A year later, it was approved by the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). In 2018, both regional bodies joined the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) to renew an earlier agreement entrusting the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) with the responsibility to manage the implementation of regulation in the area of seed and seedlings called the Tripathi Seed Agreement which covers seed control. Seed certification market regulation and also to make it easier for all the traders, private sector and researchers to exchange the seed technology among member states in the ECOWAS sub region.
It was on the basis of the aforementioned that seed actors from seventeen countries of West Africa met to access progress made in the implementation of the harmonized regional seed regulation of the Sub regions states which not only provide the right condition for promoting seed production and quality control, but also provide a basis for the healthy competition between seed companies, promote the free movement of seeds across borders thus providing farmers with access to high quality seeds.
The dynamism of the seed industry and the development of cross border seed trade depend on the application of the harmonized regional regulations which CORAF in the last seven years has supported member states in reorganizing their seed industry
Speaking at fifth statutory meeting of the West Africa Regional Seeds and Seedlings Committee (WARSSC) which held from the 16th to 18th of October in Abuja, Dr Abdulai Jolloh, Director of Research and Innovation, CORAF, who represented the Executive Director, CORAF, Dr Abdou Tenkouano reiterated the important role seed play in ensuring improved agricultural output, explained that opening up the borders across region and making available good quality seed available to farmers is the ultimate aim of the committee.
For him, the private sector plays a very key role to fill in the large space that will be created as countries increasingly use more high-quality seeds.
“We cannot do without the private sector. Over the years governments have been buying seeds, farmers have been using their own seeds and we know that is not the way to go. It is only when the private sector is involved that you will be able to produce that volume of seeds and we are all aware that in each country, there are seed committees and this is what these harmonsiation has done the protocols for certifying and ensuring the quality of seeds is the same so that when seeds are taken from sierra Leone to Nigeria, the quality is the same”.
Also speaking, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Water and Environment, Sekou Songare maintained that the regulation for seed is basically to promote seed technology seed exchange and technology in member states.
He pointed out that “it is important because we are sharing the same ecological zone. If a researcher has discovered a seed variety in the humid or Sahel zone, it does not make sense for another researcher for the same ecological zone from another country to restart the research again. So, it’s a mechanism that is bringing all the advantages to. Be together in the same community”.
Speaking on Nigeria’s efforts in the seed industry, the Director General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr Philip Ojo said Nigeria maintains the lead in the industry as having the largest number of seed enterprises of about 340 seed companies than the whole of west Africa put together.
He noted that Nigeria stands to gain more in the freed tared movement of seed across borders especially in its efforts at checking the sale of fake and adulterated seeds through the introduction of the Seedcodex platform that allows a farmer the power to authenticate the quality of seeds he is buying by sending the code embedded in the authentication tag to a short code and automatically, information on the authenticity or otherwise of the seeds is sent to him via phone.
Experts in the Nigerian seed industry acknowledge that CORAF through the West Africa seed programme has provided not only market opportunities across the Nigerian border for over 300 seed companies in the country but also helped in providing quality foundation seeds to the competent seed companies in the country.
“Last week, I delivered 40 metric tons of Sorghum seed to Ghana,” Stephen Atar, Vice Chairman of Seed Enterprises Association of Nigeria and CEO, Da-Allgreen Seeds Limited, said.
According to SEEDAN, in 2018 alone, Nigerian companies exported close to 1200 metric tons of certified seeds to Ghana with more market opportunities opening up as a result of the West Africa seed trade agreement.
However, while there is a consensus of progress made by member states in strengthening the regional seed industry, member states agree that issues like the registration of new seed varieties, the effective transfer of certain prerogatives to the private sector, challenges of cross border trade in seeds across the West African is addressed so as to make quality seeds accessible and readily available to farmers across the sub region.