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Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Civil society and regional food security Policy Brief No. 3

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

14 November 2005

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Harmonising Seed Policies

Seeds and Food Security

The SADC Dar es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security commits governments in the region to “institute measures for the timeous provision of quality seeds” among other necessary steps to increase production.

Improved seed supply is important on two levels. First, it can increase overall production and stabilize prices. Secondly, the use of improved seed can increase average regional yields, which are currently among the lowest in the world for cereals. Improved seed supply will thus ultimately improve the productivity of both farm labour and cultivated land, with direct benefits to household food security.

In most SADC countries, maize yields per hectare have remained stable (except in Zimbabwe and to a lesser degree Malawi, where they have declined). In an international context of increasing yields, this suggests SADC is producing well below its capacity. The restricted use of improved inputs, including irrigation, is a major factor explaining this poor production performance.

One reason for the relatively low use of purchased seed in the SADC region is that the overall costs are high when set against the risks of crop failure or low producer prices.

Seeds are also often difficult to purchase because of limited availability and distance to seed stores. Currently the development of seed markets that would improve access and availability is a priority for all governments in the region.

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