22 February 2020. Article first published by Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
The African Seed Access Index (TASAI), a body that promotes seed quality, accessibility, availability and affordability in Africa has told Malawi to tighten its seed inspection systems to ensure that farmers get quality seed that is easily accessible and affordable.
The body’s Program Coordinator, Mainza Mugoya, said this on 20th February during a TASAI inception workshop in Lilongwe where seed researchers, seed companies and government representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development were present.
Mugoya, who presented on some remarkable successes registered in other countries such as Kenya and Nigeria, said Malawi needs to borrow a leaf from what he presented in order to strengthen its seed sector.
“Already, Malawi is doing well but you need to look at issues of seed inspection, extension services, market analysis and ensure that mother genes and seed are readily available at all times and in good time,” he said.
He was referring to the elimination of fake and poor-quality seed on the market, that seed companies should do a market research to see which seed is mostly needed and in what quantities and the research institutions should ensure that they have enough mother genes to supply to seed companies.
In Malawi, the program will be implemented by the Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD) at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).
CARD Director, Dr. Thabbie Chilongo, said the Centre has already developed a timeline for registering seed companies for easy follow up and inspection.
“As TASAI has already alluded to, as a country, we are on track but there are still challenges such as some people selling fake seed and some companies selling seed with low germination rate which negatively impacts a lot on farmers,” said Chilongo.
He warned that there will be no compromise in cases where a company or an individual has been found supplying unqualified seed, and penalties shall apply.
Deputy Director of Department of Agricultural Research Services based at Chitedze Research Station, Dr Hendrix Kazembe, said according to the regulations of the seed sector, supplying uncertified seed warrants deregistering of the company. He urged seed companies to comply with the inspection system and allow seed inspectors to do their job without any interference such as threats or offering of bribes to inspectors in order to certify unqualified seed.
“What you seed companies can do is just to work hard on your processing of seed so that it does not fail tests. Otherwise, there will be no compromise whether you are going to lose billions, as long as your seed is not worth, it will be disqualified,” he said.
He said the Department of Agricultural Research Services will work closely with the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM) and CARD to ensure that there is sanity in the seed sector.