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Players question Seed Commission composition

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By Taonga Sabola:

Stakeholders in the agriculture industry on Wednesday concluded consultations on the draft Seed Bill 2019, with some groups questioning the dominance of government officials in the proposed National Seed Commission.

Among other things, the draft bill proposes the establishment of National Seed Commission which shall be responsible for seed certification, quality control and the regulation of seed variety release and other seed related matters.

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The commission, among other activities, will be responsible for advising the government and other stakeholders on seed matters to ensure that high quality seeds or propagating plant materials of improved varieties of crops are produced and made available to the farming community.

It would also be responsible for creating awareness at political.

The bill proposes that the commission should have seven board members appointed by the president.

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The membership includes the Secretary responsible for Agriculture or his designated representative; Secretary responsible for Forestry or a designated representative; a representative of the Department of Agricultural Research Services; a representative of the National Commission for Science and Technology; one person nominated by, and representing, seed companies; one person nominated by, and representing, farmer organisations; and one person nominated by, and representing, public universities offering agricultural programmes.

But speaking during a validation workshop of the bill, stakeholders expressed worry over the dominance of government officials in the board.

Civil Society Agriculture Network Executive Director, Pamela Kuwali, said there was need to reduce the number of government officials in the commission.

“We would like to see the commission being as independent as possible,” she said.

Kuwali added that there is need to have a representative of civil society organisations in the commission.

Association of Business Journalists Technical Consultant, Moses Michael- Phiri, concurred with Kuwali on the need to trim the number of government officials in the National Seed Commission.

Other contributors asked for the representation of Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research organisations in the Seed Commission.

A representative of United Nations Women asked for gender balance in the appointment of commissioners.

Delegates, however, expressed satisfaction with the composition of the National Variety Release Committee (NVRC), whose composition mirrored that of the National Seed Commission.

They argued that the dominance of bureaucrats in the NVRC was necessary, considering its technical functions.

In his response, Secretary for Agriculture, Grey Nyandule-Phiri, defended the dominance of government officials in the commission, saying it was necessary as the commission would be playing a regulatory role.

Phiri said the Seed Bill 2019 has been classified as an urgent bill by his ministry.

Following the conclusion of the consultations, Phiri said stakeholders have one week to submit, in writing, any comments on the Seed Bill.

Thereafter, the bill will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for vetting and final drafting before it is submitted to Cabinet.

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