Contractual agreement boosts early generation seed supply in Amhara region: Lessons Learned from BENEFIT-ISSD Amhara Unit
One of the biggest challenges in raising the performance of the seed sector in Ethiopia is the current short supply of quality Early Generation Seed (EGS) of preferred varieties. EGS includes three different classes of seed, namely breeder, pre-basic and basic, that are used as the starting material from which certified seed is produced. Hence, by a different nomenclature, EGS is referred to as foundation seed.
Up until very recently, research centres were responsible to produce all four classes of seed, including certified seed in selected cases, with minimal interest from commercial enterprises. Both public and private certified seed producers, with the exception of Corteva Agriscience (which recently acquired Pioneer Hi-Bred), have historically limited their focus to certified seed only. Confounding the problem was the fact that researchers were expected to develop and release new varieties; maintain already released varieties; and research, develop and popularize other technologies that lead to crop improvement.
Due to this division of labour, weak integration, lack of coordination, unclear responsibility, minimal information on EGS quantity and variety demand, and coordinated planning, supply of EGS has been inadequate. Often, a mismatch between the supply of EGS by researchers and the demands of farmers was observed, and either too much or too little EGS of a given variety was supplied at great cost or missed opportunity. At times, request for basic seed would take up to two years to get sufficient quantities and seed producers struggle in responding to the needs of farmers.
Since 2017, BENEFIT ISSD Amhara Unit has been facilitating dialogues among different parties, to improve the linkage and coordination between researchers, early generation seed producers and farmers for sufficient and efficient supply of quality EGS. The effort resulted in an agreement to extend the responsibilities of certified seed producers to incorporate basic seed production, and focus the orientation of researchers on breeder and pre-basic seed multiplication exclusively.
The signing of a contractual agreement between certified seed producers and buyers (regulatory authority, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), public seed enterprises, private seed producers, research institutions, unions); singed in the presence of Amhara Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) resulted in
- A seed unit with dedicated team of researchers, established within the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) responsible for forecasting EGS demand and translating it into production plans for centres under its management.
- Forecasts started to be conducted by expert groups uniting researchers, early generation seed producers including Amhara Seed Enterprise (ASE) and selected private seed producers and seed unions.
- Specific agreements were reached on who produces what for whom, by in large shifting the orientation of researchers towards breeder and pre-basic seed exclusively and certified seed producers towards basic seed production. Bilaterally, contracts were signed between both parties defining the specific terms of EGS procurement, including quantity, date of delivery and payment.
- ISSD Ethiopia Amhara Unit effort in facilitating the discussions on contractual agreements led to (re) organized forecasting, joint planning and procurement, and inclusion of relevant actors to improve reliability of forecasts and generate consensus and trust.
- Contractual agreements monitored and mediated by BoA gave clarity, created a legal ground that can be enforced by both parties. In all cases, the BoA serves as a witness to and mediator of contractual agreements between seed producers and buyer. Overall, the system reduced the burden of BoA in managing EGS supply in the region.
- The seed unit within ARARI created capacity for managing the process, while the involvement of both the regional seed core group and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) enhance accountability.
- To ensure success, it is relevant to give special attention to enforcing contracts, as deviations from and defaults on agreements were common. And it should be noted that actors are usually reluctant to commit to contractual agreements without external facilitation and pressure.
- There is still the issue of land shortage that is limiting EGS production and need attention.