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Seeds’ quality, not quantity, crucial for agricultural development, workshop says

Update: June, 27/2017 - 18:00
Workshop "International Best Practices in Seed Governance" in Hà Nội on Tuesday. - Photo courtersy of World Bank
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Developing high quality, climate resilient seeds and making them available in the market under a strong and holistic legal framework would greatly benefit farmers and be critical in transforming the agricultural sector, Hoàng Văn Thắng, vice minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said.

According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector in the Mekong region has been focusing on quantity, however, quality is imperative to improve productivity and income, thus contributing to food security and economic growth.

Despite the region being a large exporter of key products such as rice, coffee, pepper and cashew, Mekong agricultural products are known for their poor quality and reduced price on the global market. With a limited legal framework, it is challenging to ensure quality control or promote new seed varieties.

Policymakers from Việt Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar gathered in Hà Nội on Tuesday to gain insight into the best international practices in seed governance.

According to Nguyễn Hồng Sơn, head of MARD’s Crop Production Department, Việt Nam is aiming to meet local seed demands and expand the market internationally.

However, plant varieties that are disease resistant and can adapt to climate change in Việt Nam have not been well researched. Meanwhile, a large number of plant varieties have been identified, yet not many are of high quality and commercial value, thus the number of new plant varieties used in production has been insignificant.

Việt Nam’s challenge in seed selection is the weakness in technological application. In the future, a legal framework in technological application will be formed to introduce high-quality breeding which is able to adapt to the unfavourable conditions and pests, reducing the use of pesticides and ensuring food safety.

From regional experience, a representative of Laos said the private sector is important in supporting seed development in Laos. However, the private sector is still small, accounting for 30 per cent of seed companies.

Cambodia, meanwhile, has launched a seed law, while Myanmar’s government supports the private sector in seed development, especially in terms of technology.

Augustine Langyintuo, senior agribusiness specialist, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group, suggested harmonising seed rules of a regional bloc. This involves simplified custom procedures that facilitate quick movement of quality seeds within the regional bloc and motivating seed companies to invest for a wider market.

At the workshop, the World Bank Group also introduced its initiative – "Seeds for All Toolkit".

The Toolkit is a comprehensive guide for policymakers in developing countries to customize regulatory frameworks and establish realistic priorities consistent with their capacities, yet compliant with international best practices. It is developed in partnership with the multi-donor investment climate advisory service of the World Bank Group (FIAS).

“Using advanced seed varieties can improve the quality, grades and standards of farm produce, allowing Mekong countries to tap into the world’s niche markets. Going forward, seeds will become even more important as we address increasing climate change and environmental challenges as well as greater demands for more and better food,” Achim Fock, World Bank Vietnam’s portfolio and operations manager, said.

“The toolkit will help them draw on the best practices to unlock the full potential of seed systems,” he said. — VNS




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