Officials and senior experts visited the Netherlands and Germany: Lessons brought home

The Ethiopian Agricultural Authority (EAA), a recently established authority in charge of regulating the agricultural sector, is now being led by a new management team that need capacity building and exposure. It is very critical for the authority to explore how regulatory system in other countries operate in order to bring lessons and new ideas to the authority. Since the authority’s establishment, ENSP has been working to strengthen its capacity. As part of this ongoing effort, it has organized a study tour to Europe in the strong belief that exposure to these countries’ experiences will help the EAA share best practices that can be adapted to realize its long-term vision. This study tour was organized with the objectives of sharing experiences on quality regulatory service in the area of variety registration, variety protection, seed quality assurance and phytosanitary services.

The Ethiopian delegates in The Netherlands

The Ethiopian delegation paid a visit to the Federal Plant Variety Office of Germany. In the Netherlands they visited NAK (regulatory service provider for agricultural crops), Naktuinbouw (Regulatory service provider for Horticultural Crops), and two seed companies: Nunhems, which produces vegetable seeds, and HZPC, potato breeding company. In addition, the delegates had a presentation from the Netherlands Breeders Association (Plantum) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and Plant Variety Office of the Netherlands.

During the visit, presentations were provided by Ethiopian delegation about the Ethiopian seed systems and regulatory framework. The visited institutions made short presentations to the Ethiopian delegates followed by interactive discussions, visits to trial sites, greenhouse facilities, laboratory facilities and seed processing plant of seed companies in the Netherlands.
The study tour exposed the team to important experiences, which went through all steps of seed regulatory chain – from institutional set up to service provision. In general, the important lessons learned include:

  • Delegation: In the Netherlands, NVWA (Netherlands’s food and consumer product safety authority) have experience of delegating variety testing (performance trial and DUS tests), seed inspection, phytosanitary services, and other tasks to competent institutions. They delegate NAK for inspection of Agricultural crops; Naktuinbouw for horticultural crops; and BKD for bulbous crops. It is important that NVWA delegates roles and not responsibilities. The lesson is very useful for EAA, to look into the possibility of delegating some services to improve service effectiveness and quality.
  • Service fee: The service fee covers all the costs of the service in the Netherlands and most of the cost (77%) in Germany. Part of the fee goes to NVWA (application) and other part (role) for service providers. This would be an important lesson for EAA, it has to revise the regulation on the fee, to the level that covers at least the direct cost of providing service. Gradually full cost coverage could also be considered. How to fix the amount so as not to change the regulation now and then, should be dealt during the design of the regulation. In particular, the phytosanitary service fees need special attention as it is also connected to the global reputation of the country and the companies need to get good service.
  • Variety Maintenance test: Naktunbouw is undertaking maintenance check every 5 years. Maintenance control/test is highly linked with DUS and seed certification. Thus, it is an important lesson for EAA that it should start undertaking DUS test. However, the idea of variety maintenance test could be started by linking it to control tests of regional states.
  • Implementation of PVP: PVP is a major service that European regulatory systems provide. Because PVP is crucial for companies, EAA must have its own DUS test sites. In the meantime, starting in research center farms is a good idea. While waiting for PVP regulation approval, it is critical to complete all pre-conditions (protocol development, site selection, how to purche DUS test report, and others) in order to be ready for regulation implementation. Current demand of companies is full protection, which will not be possible in Ethiopia unless articles about farmers’ rights, specifically the sales rights granted to farmers for protected varieties, is changed.
  • Quality plus standard: The seed industry in the Netherlands set seed quality standard above EU standard mainly because the Netherlands export most of the vegetable seed across the world. While this gives a guarantee that seed imported from these companies are good and may be easily enter to the country without further check, there is no guarantee that their agents in Ethiopia are strong enough to maintain the quality plus standard of the companies.
  • Tag printing technology: The regulatory agencies like NAK print labels and give it to the companies. Self-certifying companies like Nunhems print their labels. In Ethiopia, currently regional regulatory authorities print tag in printing house and timing and security is the major problem as they have to go through the purchase process. Thus, it is important that the authorities have their printing machine.
  • Potato seed health test: In Ethiopia, when a seed is certified, it is only based on physical examination and not subjected to a lab test. It would be fair to say Ethiopian potato seed health testing is nearly non-existent. The Netherlands, on the other hand, places an emphasis more on laboratory testing and less emphasis on physical field observation. Therefore, it is crucial to begin such tests, which also include soil tests. To start the test, checking where the equipment and manpower is available is important.
  • Regulated Non-Quarantine Pest: Overall seed health can be ensured if knowledge of seed & soil borne disease is improved. In the IPPC one of the requirements for conducting regulatory activities on Regulated Non-Quarantine Pests (RNQP) is to prepare pest list of RNQP where currently Ethiopia is lacking. For Ethiopian to move forward in seed health test, it is critical to prepare RNQP list.

The delegation is composed of officials and experts from the EAA and ENSP. Mr. Wondale Habtamu, EAA Deputy Director General, led the delegation. Mr. Wondale thanked ENSP and the Kingdom of the Netherlands government for the opportunity. He added that significant experience and lessons have been learned, and the authority is committed to adapting those best experiences to enhance service delivery.

The Ethiopian delegates in Germany