FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Neighbouring countries aim to align seed regulations

A dynamic seed industry needs the support of a sound regulatory framework to ensure that farmers have access to high-quality seed of the best crop varieties. In practice, though, seed legislation and regulations can be a barrier to developing a competitive seed industry that meets the real needs of farmers, processors and consumers.

If countries have differing seed regulations, they cannot benefit from simplified rules for the free movement of seed in the region. When national regulations are brought into line with broadly accepted international rules, it can lead to productivity gains at both farm and national level.

To achieve this goal, an FAO project is working with member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization to strengthen regional seed trade. Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are directly involved, with Iran and Kazakhstan participating as observers. Financial support is provided by the FAO-Turkey Partnership Programme, and with a contribution from the Economic Cooperation Organization.

A workshop in Istanbul in the beginning of January brought together more than 30 technical experts from the participating countries, to discuss the need for clear national seed policies. The experts also discussed variety testing, registration and protection, seed quality standards and certification, phytosanitary procedures and other issues.

“As a first step, we evaluated the current status of the seed sector with the support of experts from each member country,” said Michael Turner, FAO international consultant for the project. “From this review, we identified gaps in national legislation in each country and also the lack of technical capacities and infrastructure of the national institutions.”

“Now, we have two main goals,” said Turner, “first, to prepare a regional seed agreement that ensures political commitment and provides a legal basis for harmonization regulations and procedures. Second, we need a strategy document that will assist countries to implement the agreement and move towards harmonisation of their variety and seed procedures.”

With the enhancement of seed trade among countries, farmers and private seed enterprises should find quality seed at affordable prices – which could ultimately lead to a more robust seed sector at national level.

In the long term, food security will be strengthened by an improved seed sector in each country – particularly in Central Asian counties and Azerbaijan, where farmers depend on imported seeds.

Workshop participants also visited the Seed Fair organized by the Seed Industrialists and Producers Sub-Union and the Seed Growers Association of Turkey.  The event, marking its fifth anniversary this year, highlights the latest technical developments in the seed sector.

27 January 2015, Ankara, Turkey