Establishment of an Agricultural Authority and its Relevance to the Seed Sector

Regulating the seed sector started with the start of variety approval by NCIC in 1982, which was more consolidated since 1992. Yet regulation was only in place in 1997 that included the different aspects of seed from variety release to seed marketing. Until 2004, activities related to seed regulation was under the Ethiopian Seed Agency, which was also renamed as Ethiopian Agricultural Authority. When the authority was abolished in 2004, the role of seed regulation was given to the ministry of agriculture and regional bureau of agriculture. The notable outcome of putting seed regulation under the ministry and bureau was poor seed quality as seed inspection and certification nearly stopped mainly because of the low attention given by the regional bureau of agriculture to seed certification. This has resulted in serious challenge with regards to seed quality, and it was an opportunity for the ISSD to initiate the establishment of regulatory authorities in the regions. With the efforts of different partners in the seed sector, it was possible to establish regulatory authorities in Amhara and SNNPR in 2013. Although Oromia was the first to start the process of establishment, it was only possible to establish the regulatory authority in 2018. With the establishment of the regional regulatory authority, and also other activities, notably direct seed marketing, seed quality has improved significantly.

A tomato farm near Bahir Dar town, in Amhara region

Since 2013, there has been also effort to strengthen the regulatory service at the federal level, including establishing it as independent authority. In order to address this, the ministry decided to staff the directorate in 2014, allowing the directorate to employ more than 90 personnel.

Unfortunately, they could not fill the vacant positions as the remuneration was not enticing to professionals. As a result, the directorate continues to provide poor service and some of the services like variety testing remains in the hands of research system creating not only conflict of interest but also difficulty to get adequate service by private companies in particular. Since 2017, there was also efforts by national seed advisory group trying to convince the ministry to establish strong regulatory system, also providing the experience in the region. As such, the ministry was convinced and started working towards establishing an authority towards the end of 2018.

After election and establishment of the new government towards the end of 2021, government offices were re-structured and agricultural authority, which is responsible for all regulatory activities in the agricultural sector was decided to be established. Finally, the authority was officially established early 2022. The establishment of the authority is one big step forward in the Ethiopian agricultural regulatory system. With regards to the seed sector, there is a lot of expectation from the authority, mainly related to variety release and registration, as the issue of seed quality is mainly taken care by regional authorities. The Ethiopian Agricultural Authority needs to independently undertake NPT and DUS test for release and registration of varieties, respectively. Moreover, the authority is also responsible to implement plant breeders’ right, the law that has never been implemented in Ethiopia, to create better access for farmers to better varieties.

However, there is a long way to go as the authority has to develop its structure, facilities, and working modalities. Over the last few months, leaders of the authority have been assigned and they are currently structuring the authority. ENSP and other projects are keen to support the authority to start its function on solid ground with the objective of establishing an institution that can deliver its responsibilities.