SEED LAWS, POLICIES AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
A number of antagonistic policies, laws and decrees impinge upon growth of the seed industry in Malawi. A coordinated, complementary and synergistic policy environment is critical for attracting investment in the sector. Some laws promote while others are a disincentive to investments in the seed sector and agriculture in general. In general, Malawi has reviewed the 1993 National seed policy and the new policy of 2018 take into consideration the needs of both domestic and international seed markets needs. Seed Policy (2018), seeks to enhance appropriate and effective seed regulatory framework, enhance seed quality assurance for better performance of agriculture, and establish reliable and internationally acceptable seed certification system. This is in line with revised seed regulations which are aligned to SADC and COMESA Seed harmonized regulations. Aims at smoothening seed trade across the borders. Unlike the 1993 seed policy, the 2018 policy, in order to improve efficiency in the delivery of services, the Seed Service Unit (SSU) will be turned into a semi-autonomous institution to be known as the “Malawi Seed Commission”. Transformation of the SSU into a semi-autonomous entity will enhance operations of the Seed Certification and Quality Control. In terms of variety release, the policyseeks to establishment of Variety Release Committee (VRC) which will have the sole responsibility of releasing varieties. This provision is a requirement in the harmonization of seed laws in SADC region. This entails that Malawi is positioning itself for the international seed markets.
The Malawi seed sector is currently being governed by outdated seed law enacted in 1996 (Seed Acts 1996). The objective of the 1993 National Seed Policy was to put in place an effective seed system capable of meeting the needs of a wide range of farmers in a wide range of crop seeds. It was also aimed at making the seed industry sustainable. The major challenge is that the infrastructure as of 1993 is not responding to current status of the seed industry with respect to services demanded and regional efforts to harmonize seed laws. This entails that despite having the updated seed policy challenges still exists. To align, Malawi government has reviewed the 1996 seed Act. The Drafted Seed Bill considers a number of changes from a number of stakeholders in the agriculture sector. The Bill will be presented in parliament to be passed into Seed Act. With 2018 Seed Policy and the Draft seed Bill, all major concerns have since been addressed but some issues may not adequately be resolved till the Bill is enacted. The country also has a seed strategy that set out the operations roadmap on seed to ensure quality and availability of all classes of seed for all crops. The Seed strategy also focus on awareness creation on significance of using certified seed for increased adoption of improved seed varieties. The review and alignment of seed laws and policies to regional harmonisation resolve the three season`s data requirement to release crop varieties such that varieties released in two member states and similar ecologies in case of SADC would then be released in Malawi once the harmonisation is domesticated. This will reduce cost of releasing varieties and advantage the smallholder farmers to have access to the technologies timely. What is required by government is to speed up passing of new seed law to resolve numerous challenges faced by seed industry
Another stern issue that affect the seed industry, is export bans. Export bans of grain have serious impact on seed demand because when exports are banned, there is normally an oversupply of a commodity and the result is decline in commodity prices. Depressed commodity prices are a sure disincentive to expanded production, which shrinks demand for certified seed.
Furthermore, the banning of exports or domestic sales of grains by authorities, contradict government policy of liberalized economy and promotion of business-oriented agriculture for smallholder farmers, and has frustrated many farmers aspiring to exploit the more lucrative niche markets, thereby negatively impacting on demand for certified seed. Further to this, lack of one stop office for export and import services raises transaction costs for companies. A case in point is the requirement for agricultural exporters to get various legal papers for export from various government agencies, rather than placing such services under one-stop shop to reduce exporters’ time and labor spent on acquiring the various licenses to export. These irregularities call for a review in the short term, of all relevant policy documents affecting seed and agriculture in Malawi.