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January 22, 2021

Govt to cancel licences of 200 seed companies for violation


January 22, 2021

LAHORE: The government is about to cancel licences of more than 200 seed companies for noncomplying with the laws and will unveil a revised regulatory framework to restrict suppliers’ operation in certain geographies to curb supply of substandard seeds, it was learnt on Thursday.

Sources said the government has prepared the revised seed regulatory framework and consultation with the stakeholders is underway.

“The area of operation of each seed company is being defined in the proposed seed regulatory framework and companies are to be categorized on the basis of their certain area such as district level, division level, province level and national level,” an official of food security ministry said in a recent moot.

A district-base licencing system will be introduced and that too will be subject to satisfactory performance in the defined geography. The licence of the seed company will be upgraded gradually to country-level operations. At least 211 companies are in the process of being de-registered, sources told this scribe.

Unlike previous framework wherein seed companies are to be scrutinised on the basis of their research and development work, market share and other parameters, now the government has come up with the idea of restricting scope of work of each seed entity to certain geographical area.

Previous attempts could not be succeeded mainly due to resistance of local seed companies because of multiple reasons. Farmers, on the other hands, continue to face challenge of low production of crops mainly due to inferior quality seed. The mushrooming of seed companies generates little good for the farmers mainly due to lack of a robust regulatory framework, said sources.

A study conducted by the Punjab government, seed quality is a major issue and availability of certified seeds has been very low. Toxicity in available seed varieties is questionable as toxin level remains lower than the threshold level. The study stressed the need of supply of certified seeds, implementation and enforcement of laws in the entire seed registration process.

In an earlier policy guideline about reforms in seed sector law and regulations floated in the province, it was emphasized that the availability of good quality seed is a critical for agriculture growth.

There are two categories of seed companies operating in the province. There are big companies, both in private and public sectors including multinational companies, a few large local firms, and public organisations, with extensive experience and capabilities in research and development of new seed varieties and the small private companies, operating mostly informally due to complicated legal regime governing seed sector.

Both these categories are important to ensure the availability of good seed and on competitive prices to the farmers.

The seed sector is governed by a complex set of regulations and regulatory authorities. The Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSC&RD) operates at the federal level and is supported by 1976 Seed Law and subsequent Amendments of 2015. FSC&RD controls varietal testing, registration and certification throughout the country.

On recommendations from FSC&RD, at the provincial level Ayyub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) and Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) certify seed varieties, as part of the review panel. However, AARI and PSC also produce seed for certification, and therefore have conflict of interest.

Furthermore, the varietal testing system is unable to enforce intellectual property rights, mainly due to slow and taxing registration process and leakages of breeder’s seed during the testing process due to poor controls.

Experts proposed that the long run goal would be to support the development of a seed industry that is mainly private sector driven, and internationally competitive, but with an effective public sector that can deliver products not profitable for the private sector.