Vegetable Seed Import in Ethiopia: A Scoping Study Highlights

The conducive environment for vegetable production and the high quality of imported vegetable seeds has increased the demand for imported vegetable seeds in Ethiopia. The varieties that companies import must be registered. However, the registration process is very challenging for vegetable seed companies. In order to assess the import trend of vegetable seed, map current vegetable seed distribution channels, and identify the key opportunities and constraints affecting vegetable seed imports and marketing, ENSP undertook a scoping study. For the assessment ten vegetable seed importing companies were interviewed.

The results of the scoping study showed that hybrid varieties of tomato, onion, hot pepper, head cabbage, lettuce, water melon, broccoli, and cauliflower make up the majority of the vegetable seeds imported. Additionally, some companies import open-pollinated varieties of carrot, beet root, head cabbage, onion, tomato, and Swiss chard. Importers sell the seeds to local traders, agents, agro-dealers, farmers’ cooperatives/unions, and NGOs.

Major challenges identified for vegetable seed importers
The MoA delegated the Ethiopian agricultural research institute and Universities the responsibility of testing and registering imported hybrid varieties of vegetables. Pursuant to the study, the hosting research institutes typically charge a hefty fee for the registration process (may reach up to 1.5 million ETB). Due to the lack of a common rate and legally obligatory regulations controlled by the ministry, the host institutes occasionally ask for varying payment rates for comparable tasks. Furthermore, research institutes usually consider the registration process as ancillary activity because they are so busy with their own research activities. The national variety releasing committee frequently arrives late at the trial location for verification after the field trials have been set up, so the appointed time for the field trials is frequently missed.

In the course of importing already registered varieties, the companies also provide a great deal of difficulties. The main challenge affecting the importation process is the lack of available foreign currency. Typically, companies may not be able to import the specified seeds because the required amount of currency is not readily available within the time limit specified in the agreement with the source companies. Additionally, because the
supply side is severely impacted by the shortage of currency, companies were unable to maintain their existing business relationships with their customers in domestic market. The MoA and its associated directorates’ management of data are not adequately or efficiently organized. Companies who import vegetable seed from overseas are compelled to wait for very long time to receive their imported seed at “Mojo Port,” which has a significant impact on the germination of the seeds.

Vegetable seed is mainly imported and there is growing demand as a result of increased food demand. Given the significance of vegetable for food and nutrition security and the national economy at large the government needs to give due focus for availability of quality seed of vegetables in the country.