Sowing seeds of success: A regional perspective on the development of the seed industry in the COMESA region

By Auckland N. Kuteya, John Mukuka, Esau Simutowe and Chance Kabaghe

The seed industry in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region is among the best performing agricultural sub-sectors in some member states comprising 21 countries. This is partly because the sector is liberalized and allows for private sector-led growth while governments provide an enabling policy environment in seed marketing and trade. While the sector has some notable constraints, generally the private sector is doing well in both local and regional seed trade.

On the other hand, other sectors like the grain sub-sector have remained underdeveloped due to excessive government interventions. A good example of a sub-sector that has not been performing well due to government interference and other political economy issues is the maize grain sub-sector. While policy makers often argue that governments need to intervene in the grain sub-sector to help secure food security, the development of the seed sector – with limited government interventions – in the COMESA region provides some important lessons. This study was based on the top three African countries that lead in seed trade, namely Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.

The main aim of this study was to draw ‘best-practice’ lessons for the development of other sectors of agriculture from the development of the seed sector in the COMESA region by understanding its key successes, constraints and opportunities.

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