Regulatory harmonization, capacity development, and near and long-term reforms for seed systems development
Regulatory harmonization, capacity
development, and near and long-
term reforms for seed systems
John C. Keyser
Senior Agriculture Trade Economist
Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice
Supplying High-Quality Seeds and Traits to
Smallholder Farmers: Policy and Investment
Options for Developing-Country Seed
International Food Policy Research Institute
28 April 2016
Current obstacles to seed trade
• Small and fragmented markets; many countries with
own rules for…
• Variety acceptance
• Seed certification
• Phytosanitary control
• Intellectual property rights
• Current conditions make private investment risky and
expensive for private sector.
• Historically, many national seed systems dominated by
• Situation has changed since liberalization, but rules and
institutions still “catching up”.
Implications of trade obstacles
• Yields not improving; farmers left with few options.
• High costs and small markets mean seed companies may
register just a few varieties and hold others back.
• Heavy burden on public agriculture research.
• Inability to meet own quality rules puts farmers at risk.
• In Uganda (even with ISTA lab), input quality is so poor and
unreliable the rate of return on “hybrid” seed and fertilizer is
• UPOV and other treaties provide for IPR on seed, yet
national policies may contradict these agreements and
undermine private confidence.
• Some require parental lines to be given NARS for variety tests.
• Restrictions and outright bans on private variety maintenance.
Efforts to improve seed trade
• Regional harmonization a popular approach
• SADC, COMESA, EAC (with ASARECA), ECOWAS/UEMOA
• Andean Pact, MECOSUR, Central America
• SAARC, ASEAN
• EU common catalog
• Goals of harmonization
• Speed variety introduction.
• Eliminate duplicate procedures.
• Minimize costs.
• Provide greater quality assurance.
• Create larger markets.
• Allows public researchers to focus on neglected crops and
What the regional rules cover
• Most regional rules…
• Common procedures for DUS and VCU testing based on
• Regional catalogs of registered varieties.
• Common certification rules based on OECD and ISTA.
• Mutual recognition of seed certificates.
• Some regional rules…
• Common pest lists to minimize need for inspection.
• Few regional rules…
• Specific regulations or guidance on protecting IPR for
Risks of harmonization
• Time consuming to agree on detailed rules.
• Cannot implement or afford advanced seed rules (small
seed companies affected most).
• Mutual recognition demands trust.
• Reform-minded countries can be held back by less
• Advanced rules typically overlook indigenous landraces.
• International systems already exist.
• Other potentially easier and more productive solutions.
Alternatives to harmonization
• Automatic variety registration.
• South Africa requires 1 season of DUS tests only.
• Bangladesh accepts test data from private companies.
• Accept other national/regional variety lists.
• Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda (supposedly) require just one
season of domestic trials if variety registered by another.
• Involve private agencies in seed certification.
• Allow private variety maintenance.
• Embrace simple risk-based alternatives such as QDS.
• Provide “exclusive rights” to public varieties.
• Accepts test data from private companies.
• Within five years, number of maize hybrids increased from
24 to 114; maize yields rose by 1.4 tons/ha.
• Since 2005, private maize hybrids helped raise maize yields
from less than 2.0 tons/ha to more than 3.0 tons/ha.
• Private maize hybrids and acceptance of private test data
helped raise yields from less than 1.0 tons/ha in 1991 to
more than 6.0 tons/ha in 2010.
Use of alternative approaches
TASAI – An index of seed policies
• Research and development
• Number of breeders, number of varieties released, availability of
• Industry competitiveness
• Number of companies, time to import, market share of top
companies and current govt. parastatal.
• Policies and regulations
• Length of variety release process, adequacy of seed inspectors,
efforts to stamp out fake seed.
• Institutional support
• Availability of extension, quality of national seed association.
• Service to smallholder farmers
• Presence of rural agro-dealers, availability in small seed packs.
TASAI - Industry scoring of