Participants at the 3rd National Seed Forum in Accra have urged government to increase funding for agricultural development to 10 per cent of GDP as agreed by African Union leaders under the 2014 Malabo Declaration.

In a communique issued at the end of the forum, the participants said in recognition of the critical role of research to agriculture, at least 1% of the quantum should be reserved to support varietal research and development.

Participants suggested government places levies on agricultural imports and commercial transactions in the context of an active Plant and Fertilizer Fund, to raise money to sustainable fund varietal research and development.

They also urged that the process of variety release and registration and its adjunct, the National Seed Bank operations, should be properly resourced and technically structured, as per international norms and standards. The stakeholders also want the process streamlined to cut down on cost and duration to encourage breeders to be more productive and make Ghana a preferred site for corporate variety release in the ECOWAS Region.

The Third National Seed Forum held last week was under the theme: “Facilitating The Seed Industry through Knowledge, Collaboration and Strategic Planning.” The Forum was organized by the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) and the National Seed Council with support from the Ghana Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (GIAT) Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) acting through AGRA, The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) and the Feed the Future (FtF) PolicyLink programme. The forum was attended by participants from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), research institutions, farmer organizations, seed companies, civil society organizations, research institutions and development partners.

The main outcome of the forum was a draft Ghana Seed Sector Strategy and Investment Plan, and enhanced awareness of responsibilities and required skills for actors along the seed value chain. A committee was established to undertake a process of country-wide validation of the draft Ghana Seed Sector Strategy and Investment Plan. In the end, the plan will be submitted to the Minister for Food and Agriculture for adoption by MoFA as an update to the 2015 National Seed Plan.

The communique signed by chairman of the National Seed Council Josiah Wobil and president of NASTAG Kwabena Adu – Gyamfi, made the following additional recommendations: Participants encourage the government to progressively create the necessary platform for safe and effective use of biotechnology applications and Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the national seed industry as a means of rapidly attaining the national food security goals. In that regard, participants recommended that government should support the training of all categories of staff in biotechnology, provide infrastructural and logistical support, and support the setting up of laboratories in the appropriately mandated agencies, in their work of unearthing technology innovations to find effective and sustainable solutions to the current global food crisis.

Participants urge the government to continue to facilitate the implementation of the Plant Variety Protection Act (Act 1050) by enhancing the process of passing the legislative instrument that will establish the regulations for implementing the Act. The Act is aimed at encouraging breeders in their work and enhancing the business aspects of the seed industry and farmer confidence. It is also expected to boost agricultural productivity through the development and release of improved varieties, improved seed accessibility and protection of plant genetic products.

Participants recognise the catalytic role of data and statistics in seed sector development and urge MOFA to take leadership in the establishment of data and database platforms that will enhance the operations of the seed industry. Towards that end, MOFA and the seed industry must partner up in the collation of data so that all information requested might be consistent and accurate regardless of the source. Further, issues relating to data on informal seed sector operations, internet-based technology on seed demand-forecasting, and the establishment of a user-friendly online resource database that incorporates all relevant extension and agricultural training materials must be seriously addressed.

Participants advise that government should endeavour, as a matter of urgency, to settle all arrears for seeds supplied over the past two years under the PFJ program. The non-payment has had a negative impact on seed businesses, impairing ability of seed companies to produce adequately to meet national goals as well as earn enough income for improved livelihoods. The NSC and NASTAG should work closely together to develop a post-PFJ marketing strategy that will enhance seed growers’ effective marketing skills in a possible non-subsidized period.

Participants recommend that NASTAG, in cooperation with MoFA and development partners, should prioritize capacity building among all seed industry players, particularly to address the need for adequate knowledge and skills to implement the policy, plans and legislation that govern the industry. Priority issues in that regard are the proper processes to introduce hybrid seed production, training and capacitation of public and private extension officers as well as the capacitation of seed distributors.

Participants noted the critical role of Ghana Seed Inspectorate Division of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Division (GSID-PPRSD) in seed certification, and urged that adequate resources be allocated to the Division to enhance its regulatory function. In that regard, the expectation is that a properly resourced GSID would be more effective in checking the incidences of adulterated and fake seeds sold to farmers; build the capacity of custom officers to minimize delays in cross border seed movements. and develop seed certification protocols for admitting into seed certification, additional priority scheduled/focus crops, including vegetatively propagated crops.

Participants noted the sad stage of the national seed infrastructure and lauded the government’s current effort to rehabilitate the aged public sector seed stores and processing plants sited across the Regions. The communique recommended that seed companies should also be assisted with concessionary financing to acquire their own seed storage and processing structure that are in tune with their own requirement. Government may also prioritise allocation of irrigation facilities for deployment by seed companies particularly for off-season seed multiplication and to meet the needs of high value and specialized crop types and varieties.

Participants finally urge government to provide adequate support to National Seed Council to effectively carry out its mandate of oversight of the seed sector, particularly, overall seed sector planning and coordination.