Seed sector alert Ethiopia

Ethiopia seed sector assessment

Seed Alerts identify current challenges and urgent action in the Ethiopian seed sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders.

Below, please find the most recent seed alert for Ethiopia with key actions defined. You can also download the complete assessment.

Methodology

Rapid assessments are conducted at the country level in May and June 2020 through survey and focus group discussions (FGDs). In its approach the rapid assessments are inspired by the sector model developed by AidEnvironment. Read more about the methodology on our page 'Rapid assessments: methodology'.

Seed sector assessment - June 2020

Alert 1: Mobility restrictions and lockdown disrupt the processes involved in the release and registration of new varieties

The impact

  • The formal processes and speed of variety release and registration are disrupted (survey: 92%)
  • Only a limited number of staff members of the Plant Variety Release, Protection and Seed Quality Control Directorate (hereafter called the Directorate) are able to work in the office, causing delays in the completion of activities
  • The Directorate faces challenges in obtaining necessary data from some of the Technical Committees (TC)
  • At the time of writing (12 June 2020), the secretariat of the National Variety Release Committee (NVRC) has not yet completed summarizing technical reports on the candidate varieties to be submitted to the NVRC
  • Even though it normally meets in March-April, the NVRC has not yet been able to schedule this meeting owing to the lockdown restrictions
  • If the process for the release and registration of the varieties is not concluded in June, farmers’ access to new and better-performing candidate varieties of rain-fed crops, such as maize, sorghum and potato, will be delayed by one year
  • Research organizations and breeding companies will not be able to produce or make EGS available, thus delaying the production of certified seed
  • Pre-extension demonstration of new and released varieties cannot take place
  • If these challenges are not addressed before 20 June 2020, it is unlikely that farmers will be able to benefit from investments in crop improvement for some seasons to come

Actions required

  • Urge two of the three staff members of the Directorate to get the missing TC reports, finalize the summaries, ensure that the TC has evaluated candidate varieties for their value for cultivation and use (VCU), and attach these summaries to the applications of candidate varieties by 12 June 2020 at the latest
  • Permit these staff members to return to the office to complete the work, arranging safe transport to and from the office if need be, and providing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Send summaries to NVRC members individually and ask that they approve those varieties recommended for release by the TC
  • Directly upon approval and before 20 June 2020, inform breeders/institutes that varieties have been approved by 50% or more of NVRC members so that they can start the production of EGS and kick-off pre-extension variety demonstration
  • Urge research institutes to prioritize access to irrigation for breeder seed production and the pre-extension demonstration of newly released varieties that missed regular planting time under rain-fed conditions

Alert 2: Mobility restrictions and fears among staff of critical stakeholder organizations hinder the timely supply of early generation seed (EGS)

The impact

  • The processing and supply of EGS of maize, common beans and other crops are delayed, owing to a shortage of staff in research centres, e.g. EIAR and Regional Agricultural Research Institutes (RARIs)
  • The rising death rate, and the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, worries staff and reduces their commitment to come to work and their enthusiasm to complete their responsibilities
  • Given that the EIAR is a primary source of EGS, the delay and prospective untimely supply of EGS will jeopardize the delivery of quality seed of new varieties to farmers
  • The shortage of labour particularly affects the processing of breeder seed, which is cleaned manually owing to its small quantities
  • Communication and coordination between EGS suppliers, EGS producers and authorities responsible for quality assurance are hampered
  • ISSD is unable to effectively play its role in facilitating the establishment of a sustainable EGS supply system, as entrusted by the MoA, owing to restrictions in public meetings and the reluctance of stakeholders to participate
  • Many of the original plans and processes for signing contracts for next year’s EGS supply, as well as the facilitation of this year’s transactions, have been disrupted
  • If there is a shortage of EGS affecting farmers’ access to seed in diverse agroecologies, private seed producers and seed producer cooperatives will be those most affected (survey: 1st and 2nd rank)

Actions required

  • Encourage the EIAR and RARIs to prioritize the processing of EGS
  • Support staff to get access to PPE and other sanitary equipment, strengthen their commitment, and assume their responsibilities
  • Conduct an inventory of EGS demand and supply on a regular basis to optimize utilization
  • Speed up the re-allocation of EGS from less needy customers to those most in need, in cases where the former do not collect on time, i.e. minimize the carryover of EGS
  • Prioritize the allocation of alternative production sites, e.g. large farms, and the off-season production of EGS with irrigation to catch up on the supply of basic seed for next year’s main season

Alert 3: Mobility restrictions hamper seed quality assurance in EGS production, and reduces availability of varieties in high demand

The impact

  • Field and/or laboratory inspections required for quality assurance of EGS have been disrupted in production sites of some research centres; as a result, EGS cannot be certified or made available for supply
  • For example, at an irrigated production site of Werer Agricultural Research Centre in Afar, the seed of a new sought-after wheat variety was sampled and tested, but results have not been communicated, and thus EGS seed has not been certified
  • Another example is that the production of maize inbred lines by Bako Agricultural Research Centre, where the seed could not be certified because germination standards were not met
  • Seed producers continue to have an interest in the production of certified seed of the wheat and maize varieties in demand

Actions required

  • Urge research organizations and seed producers involved in EGS production and seed regulatory bodies to demonstrate strategic flexibility in seed quality assurance and facilitate the continued supply of EGS as much as possible during the current crisis
  • Speed-up communications between the MoA and the regional regulatory authority; urge that laboratory tests are concluded and that wheat varieties multiplied at Werer are certified for EGS production
  • Permit the use of seed of maize inbred lines that is not certified due to its low germination rate, under a special arrangement in which the producer increases the seed rate to compensate for low germination
  • Propose that the MoA elaborates guidelines for the certification of EGS under current exceptional conditions

Alert 4: Mobility restrictions impede seed producers’ access to agro-inputs, labour and finance

The impact

  • As a result of their limited access to and availability of agro-chemicals, labour and finance, public seed companies, private seed companies and seed producer cooperatives are constrained in the seed production operations for maize hybrids, wheat, potato and several other crops
  • Agro-chemicals for plant protection are expected to remain in short supply this year
  • Limited reserves of foreign currency, aggravated by a decrease in remittances transferred into the country, result in a reduction in imports of agro-chemicals for crop and seed production
  • Global transportation is affected, which in turn impacts on the shipment of agrochemicals to Djibouti
  • Djibouti has become a hotspot for COVID-19; drivers returning from Djibouti regularly test positive for the virus, causing further disruptions in supply chains for agro-inputs
  • The government is currently purchasing agro-chemicals; it also releases foreign currency to facilitate agro-input importation, although the amount remains inadequate
  • Mobility restrictions, social distancing and fear among agricultural workers negatively impact the availability of labour for seed production
  • Labour wages rose two-fold in May, increasing the cost of production and thus significantly reducing profitability for private seed producers and seed producer cooperatives
  • Current government restrictions on the provision of credit limits the amount of capital available from banks for production, particularly for private seed producers and local seed producer cooperatives
  • Insufficient supply of inputs, labour and finance may result in a failure to produce sufficient seed, and will at least significantly raise the cost of production, reduce profitability and curtail willingness to invest in seed production in the future
  • Survey respondents identify poor farmers and female-headed households as the seed users most affected by the reduced availability and thus affordability of quality seed

Actions required

  • Encourage the MoA to prioritize agro-chemicals when allocating foreign exchange currency for imports
  • Inform and encourage the MoA and the Ministry of Transport on how to increase the safety of transport workers travelling to and from Djibouti
  • Provide PPE and sanitary supplies, and raise awareness on the risk of infection by COVID-19 for transport workers engaged in the importation of agro-chemicals from Djibouti
  • Encourage and support seed producers to attract, mobilize and secure labour by providing PPE, safe transport and, if possible, board and lodging, whilst raising awareness about the disease in collaboration with local authorities
  • Inform the MoA and engage with banks in the provision of credit for seed production by private seed producers and seed producer cooperatives

Seed sector assessment - May 2020

Alert 1: Precautions hamper seed processing and distribution

The impact

  • COVID-19 and precautionary measures taken by government and society limit mobility of seed transporters and traders
  • Because they fear surface transmission of the virus, workers are reluctant to operate equipment and perform loading and unloading tasks at seed processing facilities
  • Transporters and retailers are reluctant to meet each other at points of exchange in the seed distribution network
  • Retailers fear meeting transporters as they come from busier urban centres where the virus is suspected
  • 90% of respondents in the survey believe that transport to and stock at points of seed sale will be negatively impacted by the crisis
  • To avoid last minute rush to and congestion at retail outlets, government has given direction to companies to distribute their seed swiftly
  • Indications are that good progress has been made, particularly in the case of maize, but processing and distribution of other cereals like wheat is still underway
  • If momentum is not maintained and seed distribution is impeded, farmers will have little other choice but to turn to their own and their neighbours’ grain harvests as a source of seed or delay planting in the expectation that seed will still be distributed, either of which could be detrimental both in terms of the quantity and quality of grain harvested

Actions required

  • Provide workers at seed processing facilities with personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies
  • Increase involved workers’ confidence in their safety by posting illustrations of the precautionary measures put in place in their workplace
  • Screen, if possible test, and isolate labourers with symptoms in collaboration with health officers
  • Monitor current operating capacities in seed processing facilities, assess potential and document challenges
  • Alert government and companies to the situation and urge that they communicate and collaborate when and where needed
  • Coordinate more optimal use of resources in increasing the combined output of processors

Alert 2: Short supply of inputs and labour constrain seed production

The impact

  • COVID-19 and precautionary measures taken by government and society will likely disturb seed producers in their access to labour
  • Labourers much needed for seed production are reluctant to leave their homes for fear of catching the virus
  • Whilst in Tigray region, their movement between administrative areas is more restricted than elsewhere
  • Agro-input suppliers may also shut their doors to customers or face similar disruption in their supply chains to that of seed (see Alert 1)
  • 87% of respondents in the survey indicate that reduced access to inputs and labour poses a significant threat to early generation seed (EGS) and certified seed production in 2020
  • Labour is a key constraint to seed production, in particular for hybrid maize at the time of detasseling
  • As a result of limited access to labour, labour costs will likely increase and drive up the cost of production
  • The increased cost of production impacts upon the business model of seed companies, puts upward pressure on seed prices, and may result in less affordable quality seed being available next season
  • Coupled with the worsening plague of desert locusts in the country, the outlook for future seed and food availability is gloomy

Actions required

  • Develop new working conditions that apply the 1.5 metre distance restriction during routine field-based labour activities
  • Print pamphlets with illustrations of these and other precautionary safety measures that can be applied in the field
  • Distribute these through seed producers and local agriculture and labour offices to labourers to raise their awareness and confidence of safety
  • Broadcast the same messages over rural radio to increase their reach
  • Encourage labourers to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, and prioritize the use of hand sanitizer where water is unavailable
  • Screen, if possible test, and isolate labourers with symptoms in collaboration with health officers
  • Re-prioritize the supply of labour-saving technology to selected producers
  • Promote the use of mechanical cutting apparatuses for detasseling in hybrid maize seed production
  • Communicate virtually and frequently with producers to monitor progress
  • Regarding agro-input suppliers including farm service centres, follow the actions of Alert 1

Alert 3: Social distancing diminishes government’s capability to coordinate EGS supply

The impact

  • COVID-19 and precautionary measures taken by government and society disturb interaction among key stakeholders in EGS supply
  • Commonly, MoA and BoAs convene joint planning among stakeholders in EGS production and are key decision makers in EGS allocation
  • They also witness and enforce contractual agreements in EGS supply
  • Because of social distancing measures, advances in these formal procedures are struggling to take place
  • Virtual conferencing is unfamiliar practice in government
  • Despite information and communication technology (ICT) being available, government faces difficulty in communicating with stakeholders
  • Almost all panellists in the survey (90%) perceive a strongly negative impact of the crisis on government’s capability to coordinate seed sector activities; EGS supply is no exception
  • This concern is raised in particular in Amhara and Tigray regions
  • Disarray in the coordination of not only current but future supply of EGS could have profoundly negative effects on the quantity, quality and variety of seed on offer in the short- to mid-term

Actions required

  • Promote virtual conferencing and ICT to government and technically backstop their adoption for continued planning, coordination and decision making in EGS production and supply
  • Create awareness of the Electronic Signature Proclamation No.1072/2018 and binding of agreements executed digitally in accordance with the law
  • Give formal approval for digital countersigning of contractual agreements
  • Facilitate agreements remotely by (e)mail either digitally or e.g. DHL courier service
  • Ensure that MoA/BoAs witness and enforce agreements
  • Enforce agreement to tight deadlines of delivery, and immediately re-allocate EGS when performance is compromised
  • Monitor progress in production and delivery of EGS frequently and remotely by SMS, telephone, email or virtual conferencing
  • Reprioritize experimental plots at research stations and commercial farms for EGS production of the most demanded varieties
  • Use development agents (DAs) in supervising EGS production off site, providing them with EGS production manuals
  • Permit, under exceptional circumstances where basic seed cannot be supplied, the use of C1 seed in authorized certified seed multiplication

Alert 4: Concern that substandard seed will make its way onto the market is heightened

The impact

  • COVID-19 and precautionary measures taken by government and society disturb seed supply chains and mobility of inspectors and input supervisors in seed markets
  • Close to two-third of the survey’s respondents (63%) share the concern that substandard seed will make its way onto the market
  • The use of substandard seed will have consequences on both the quantity and quality of farmers’ harvests
  • A poor crop and its harvest could spell catastrophe for farmers food and nutrition security and income generation at a time when grain prices are already beginning to soar

Actions required

  • Establish a working group of BoA and regulatory staff to monitor quality at various nodes in distribution to stamp out substandard seed
  • Conduct post-control checks at major seed markets without prejudice with immediate effect
  • Set up a customer complaints hotline to direct the attention of seed inspectors to sites where seed of dubious quality has been sold
  • Initiate an awareness raising campaign on radio to alert farmers and DAs to this concern and how to scan for substandard seed in the market

Read the full assessment (PDF)