Restrictions on cross border movement imposed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic by countries in the region, have adversely affected the supply of seeds which may lead to food insecurity. Hence, the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) and the COMESA Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), recommends classification of seeds as essential commodities that should be allowed unrestricted movement across the region. “If the seed movement is not normalized in the next six months, 123 million out of 650 million people in the COMESA region will face starvation,” according to COMESA/ACTESA Seed Expert Dr John Mukuka. Dr Mukuka said a few countries have reported difficulties to move seeds across borders. If this trend continues, there will be inadequate harvests, a situation that will lead to food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger the COMESA and African countries, in the next few months.
“Closing borders or even slowing down the trans boundary movement of seeds could create a significant problem in the seed supply chain,” Dr Mukuka said noting that regional countries need to ensure access to quality and improved seed for the 80 million small scale farmers in the COMESA region and beyond. Dr Mukuka observed that no country today could fully supply farmers with quality seed of their choice solely from their own production. Hence, companies produce seed in different countries all over the world including COMESA, to mitigate the risk of crop failures due to adverse weather conditions. “By finding optimal locations for seed production, timing of harvest, and localized expertise, the seed sector ensures steady supply of seed for farmers everywhere in the region and globally,” he said. Dr Mukuka said ACTESA and AFSTA thus appeals to Member States to allow free movements of seed at this time of the year in line with international standard practice of seed trade and in conformity with COMESA Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan (COMSHIP).
This includes: facilitating the movement of seed within the region in line with the COMESA harmonized Seed Trade Regulations; application of phytosanitary measures for seed only for pests, which are not common to all COMESA countries; use the COMESA Regional Seed certificates and labels for all seed meeting the COMESA Seed Standards among others. Since 2010 COMESA/ACTESA has been working with AFSTA on the implementation of COMSHIP. AFSTA has more than 118 Members from 39 countries of which 27 are National Seed Trade Associations (NSTAs) in Africa and 44 associate members worldwide. ACTESA is a specialized agency of COMESA formed to address staple food production and marketing in the region.