capital ethiopia By Muluken Yewondwossen
The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources is developing a regulation to allow seed producers to export their products, Capital learned.
Experts said the new rule would allow the country to export more fruits and vegetables. Currently companies are allowed to grow seeds but not allowed to export them.
“The case was very complicated. The government preferred preventing seed exports because they thought giant international seed producers and sellers did not want to follow the procedures like tracing seed identity,” an expert who preferred anonymity told Capital.
They went on to say that currently big international seed producers are exporting on a trial basis but they declined to mention names.
According to the new information that Capital obtained the government is now interested in opening up the fruit and vegetable sector to expand seed production. This would make them more accessible locally and easier to export.
“There was not a specific regulation about the export of seeds,” Tewodros Zewdie, Executive Director of the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer and Exporters Association (EHPEA) said.
The regulation supporting the growing demand of giant seed producers is in the process of being created and it is expected to be applicable in the current budget year.
The country ratified, Seed Proclamation no. 206, in 2000, but it was not supported by further regulations or directives. However, article 35 sub article 1 stated: The Council of Ministers may issue regulations necessary for the implementation of this proclamation and sub article 2 added that the agency that oversees fruits and vegetables should issue the directive.
Meanwhile the country has not allowed seed production for export, small seed growers that are very small and engage in very few products are allowed to supply their product for the local market.
Gebremichael Habte, agronomist and consultant in agri-investment, told Capital that the upcoming regulation would be a good opportunity for the country to generate more hard currency. He said that it would also create more jobs and save hard currency that goes to importing seeds.
“Seeds are expensive when they are imported,” Gebremichael said.
Experts said that this should help the country produce more fruits and vegetables.
“The new law may allow the large scale industry players and household farmers to obtain seeds cheaply and get a wider amount of varieties,” experts said.
“Currently the fruit and vegetable sector is not growing as expected and lack of seeds in one reason,” Tewodros said.
According to Tewodros, fruits and vegetables have not succeeded as well as horticulture has.
“Quality seeds for vegetables and fruits are not easily available, international seed producers were not engaged in the country,” he told Capital.
It is good news that the government is now developing a regulation to allow the international seed growers to produce the product locally. He said that several promotional activities have been conducted to attract potential seed producers to Ethiopia.
Several companies have already expressed an interest in investing in fruits and vegetables, according to experts.
This is a good time to invest in fruits and vegetables because the global diet trend is changing as more people are turning away from meat and the world’s population is increasing.
Tewodros mentioned that agro logistical issues like container shortages and shipping are another challenge when it comes to exporting more fruits and vegetables.
“In the coming years we would like to see better conditions,” he said.
International chain supermarkets are looking into Ethiopian fruits and vegetables.
If the policy, infrastructure and rules of the government become easier experts say produce production would increase.
Recently strawberries have been exported. In the past few years the number of strawberry farms has increased to 15 from two about three years ago. They are also exporting to Europe.
A report indicated that fruits and vegetables have a lot of potential, the Association head said.
Data indicated that the country has spent a significant amount of hard currency to import seeds and the amount is growing rapidly. For instance in 2012 Ethiopia imported 127.9 tons of vegetables with a total value of USD 3.3 million and that amount has increased to 553 tons with value of USD 15.1 million in 2016.
Capital’s effort to get further information from Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources was unfruitful.