The FINANCIAL — IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping increase the use of high quality seeds in the Mekong countries by developing policies and legal frameworks that support a vibrant and competitive seed sector.
Historically, agricultural sectors in the region have been focusing on quantity, but quality is imperative to improve productivity and income, thus contributing to food security and economic growth.
A source of employment and livelihood for decades, agriculture continues to be a vital contributor to the Mekong economy. However, despite being large exporters of key products including rice, coffee, pepper and cashew, Mekong agricultural products are known for poor quality with reduced price in the global market. With a limited legal framework, it is challenging to ensure quality control or promote new seed varieties, according to IFC.
“Developing high quality and climate resilient seeds and making them available on the market under strong and holistic legal framework would greatly benefit not just farmers but also critical to transform the agricultural sector” said Hoang Van Thang, Vice Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
A regional workshop — co-organized by the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development — saw the participation of various stakeholders, including policy-makers from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR. The one-day event offered insights into international best practices in seed governance. Participants also shared experiences about reform efforts — from reducing the burden of compliance for registering new seed varieties to improving seed quality control, and crowding in the private sector.
“The goal is to work towards seed certification and licensing regulations in order to provide farmers with quality seeds,” said Kyle Kelhofer, IFC Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “This will also attract private sector investment to increase production of selected certified seeds, helping create jobs, prosperity and improve the livelihoods for millions of farmers across countries.”
On this occasion, the World Bank Group also introduced its initiative: ‘Seeds for All Toolkit’. The Toolkit is a comprehensive guide for policy-makers in developing countries to customize regulatory frameworks and establish realistic priorities consistent with their capacities yet compliant with international best practice. It is developed in partnership with the multi donor investment climate advisory service of the World Bank Group (FIAS).
Responding to the sector’s needs, the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, in partnership with multi donors including FIAS, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia (DFAT), Department of International Development, UK (DFID), Government of Japan, etc., will continue its interventions in the Mekong countries. A key component in strategic agriculture sector-shifts — from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’ — is the realization of seed sector reforms, which will lead to increased profitability and improvement of farmers’ livelihoods.