Members of the Sessional Committee on Agriculture have poked holes in the draft seed policy, saying the document does not tackle the cost of seeds yet it is among the contentious issues that must be conclusively addressed by the policy.
During the seed policy development organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in Munyonyo recently, it emerged that the principle behind the development of the seed policy is to empower the private sector into becoming a more dominant commercial player as the government provides an enabling environment for the seed sector.
Speaking in a sideline interview, the Vice Chairperson Committee on Agriculture, Ms Oleru Huda Abason, said: “The policy should address the cost of seeds instead of ignoring it or mentioning it in passive as it is the case in the draft.”
She continued: “The cost of seeds must be dealt with at this level—at the beginning. It should not be treated as the last item because of its importance in the development of agricultural sector.”
For the cost of seeds to be made affordable, she argued that the government must be in control of the sector as opposed to be left entirely in the hands of private sector who are mostly motivated by profits rather than the social good.
Ms Oleru also questioned the absence of farmers in the workshop, saying without their direct input, the policy is incomplete.
Mr Richard Mugisha, a civil society activist, said in an interview: “As long as the traditional seeds are conserved and farmers’ capacities to develop and distribute their own seeds are not tempered with, we will have no problem with the seed policy.”
He continued: “We are now seeking more clarity on how the traditional seeds will be safeguarded. And that is what we want to see in the policy.”
The seed policy development was facilitated by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) and Integrated Seed Sector Development alongside Uganda Seed Traders Association, Uganda national agro input dealers association and Uganda National Farmers’ Federation, among others. The commissioner crop inspection and certification at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Robert Karyeija, said the policy was due for Cabinet not until the private sector lobbied to have their input in it.
Without the policy in place he said the seed industry could degenerate. He also said that self-regulation will be the way to go in the seed industry.
Genesis of seed industry in Uganda
Uganda’s formal seed industry has transformed from public to private sector led. The formal seed sector started as government seed scheme in 1968 with donor support from the British Overseas Development Agency and Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) under the ministry responsible for agriculture.
The objective was to provide a more reliable seed supply system for smallholder farmers. To ensure farmers protection government introduced strict laws and control over the seed sectors. Transformation to private sector led started in the 1990s with liberalisation of the economy.
The policy now is being developed to turn the industry into an export oriented seed sector targeting Ugandans and the regional markets.