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Service Plant Production and Protection Division FAO 1. INTRODUCTION
With over 3.4 billion people in 1996, the Asia-Pacific region represents more than 55% of the world's population. However, this region possesses only 30% of the world’s arable land. Fiftyseven percent of the population is directly involved in agriculture. In addition, with an annual population growth rate of 1.8%, the region’s population is estimated to reach 4.1 billion by the year 2010. Under these conditions, achieving sustainable national food security is one of the important challenges facing most Asia-Pacific countries. Despite enormous efforts by most governments as well as assistance from bilateral and multilateral development agencies to attain food security in the region, the current indicators predict a widening gap between production and population increases. Consequently, the 1996 World Food Summit concluded that more assistance and realistic approaches in the agricultural sector are needed if food security is to be achieved and sustained. In response, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action has established the foundation for diverse paths to guarantee food security. Improvement in the seed1 supply sector in the region is one of the main strategies to improve food security (FAO, 1997a). Guaranteeing farmers ongoing access to quality seed can only be achieved if there is a viable seed supply system to multiply and distribute the seeds of plant varieties that have been produced or preserved. Agricultural policies aimed at achieving food security must emphasize seed supply system strategies that will ensure the availability of quality seed of locally-adapted varieties for farmers in a timely and affordable fashion. In addition, it is necessary to develop a regional capability to restore seed systems in response to periodic disaster and emergency situations. An assessment of the seed supply sector in the region is essential before strategies for future development of the seed sector are designed. This document provides detailed information on the seed supply sectors based on information provided by Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea (ROK), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The document also analyzes important linkages between the seed supply systems and other services offered to farmers in the region. This document is comprised of six chapters. The introductory chapter briefly describes agroecological and climatic features of Asia and the Pacific, socio-economic conditions, and natural resource management. The agricultural sector of the region is assessed in the second chapter. Seed and food security is evaluated in the third chapter. The fourth and fifth chapters analyze the seed supply sector and plant genetic resources, respectively. The final chapter highlights the constraints on the development of the seed supply system and makes suggestions to improve of the seed sector in the region.
Seed refers to both true seed and vegetatively propagated material.
Agro-Ecological Regions in Asia and the Pacific
The major agro-climatic regions are determined by rainfall, temperature, altitude, latitude and proximity to oceans. Annual precipitation is bi-modal, with monsoonal wind systems shedding rain in tropical areas. Throughout the region, cyclonic weather and typhoons can also result in excessive rain and cause considerable damage to crops. Annual rainfall fluctuates considerably due largely to the erratic nature of the wind systems, thus affecting crop production. Climate is influenced by topographical features that affect temperature. The northern latitudes and mountainous regions result in a temperate climate, whereas the southern latitudes are tropical and sub-tropical with high relative humidity, especially in the coastal areas. Snow and frost in northern Asia occur in winter months and greatly influence land use and crop production. Some parts of Asia suffer periodically from climatic extremes such as drought, floods, tropical cyclones, heat and cold. The region is subject to cyclical shifts in temperature and precipitation resulting from the El Niño/La Niña phenomenon. The main seasonal climatic zones are characterized by: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (vi) marked wet summer and dry winter in mountainous regions of the north of Asia; wet summers and relatively dry winters in the northern plains; rain all year round from monsoons and convectional systems; marked wet winters and dry summers; (vi) arid and semi-arid climates; and pacific islands have an equitable year-round climate with seasonal monsoons and cyclones.
Where rainfall exceeds 800 mm, stable agriculture is followed with little apparent danger to the natural resource base. Irrigation schemes aimed at achieving food sufficiency have led to some problems in conservation of the natural resource base in such areas. In the arid and semi-arid regions of northern and central Asia, mostly livestock farming and irrigated agriculture is practiced. Certain countries have pursued national agricultural policies that promote export of surplus commodities. This has in turn helped their economies to grow and allowed importation of other needed commodities. 1.2 Economic Situation in the Region
Until mid-1997, Asia recorded the fastest economic growth of any region of the world. The region recorded an average economic growth rate of 8.2% in 1994 and 7.9% in 1995. In both years, nine countries in the region (including the most populous such as China, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and the Philippines) achieved GDP growth rates above 6%. For example, in the 3 years to 1996, China’s economy grew an average of 11.8% per year. In 1997, there was a series of runs on regional stock markets due largely to over-investment in the Asian region by world capital markets. This financial crisis led to a precipitous devaluation of Asian country currencies and asset values of regional companies and investment portfolios. There was a significant flight of capital from the region and the rate of economic growth in terms of GDP fell dramatically. In countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, ROK and Japan, the GDP became negative. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), supported by many industrialized economies, has responded to the Asian financial crisis.
Since mid-1998, currency exchange rates of countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea have stabilized and strengthened somewhat from their lows of early 1998. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that growth in GDP will strengthen in 1999 particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, ROK, Thailand and the Philippines (IMF, 1998). Interest rates have declined markedly and currency pressures have eased. Significant structural reforms have been recommended and implemented (World Bank, 1998). Further recessionary impact on the region cannot be excluded, predicting the timing and rate of recovery with accuracy is difficult. In addition, recent financial crises in Russia, and to a lesser extent South America, can be expected to have an impact on the economic recovery in Asia and the Pacific. The severe economic recession has led to political and social disturbances throughout the region. The impact on agriculture and food security is presently under evaluation by international organizations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and by concerned regional developed countries such as Australia. Unemployment has led to an increase in poverty and hunger. Because of migration from rural areas to cities during the economic boom in Asia, many people have become unemployed and have been disenfranchised from their rural and agrarian environments. The level of food security in the region can be expected to decline. Similarly, the recession has also meant that there are reduced financial resources to strengthen seed security. On the other hand, the devaluation of currencies throughout the region will make Asian exports more competitive and could strengthen agricultural production and trade in the region. 1.3 Natural Resource Conservation and Management
The Asia-Pacific region is the center of genetic diversity of some of the world’s major food crops. This includes wheat, onion, carrot and faba bean in Central Asia; rice, kodo millet, eggplant, mango and black pepper in South Asia; winged bean, taro, yam, breadfruit, banana and citrus in South-East Asia; and, soybean, apricot, peach, fox tail millet and proso millet in East Asia (FAO, 1996b). However, the extinction of some species from their center of origin has been reported by most countries in the region. Genetic erosion is generally caused by the replacement of local varieties by “improved” or exotic varieties, the associated monoculture and by population pressure and urbanization. For example, in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand it is reported that local fruits and rice varieties are gradually being replaced with improved varieties (Guarino and Friis-Hansen, 1995). In the Republic of Korea, a survey showed that only 26% of the landraces cultivated in home gardens in 1985 were still present in 1993. In China, only 10% of the 10,000 wheat varieties used in cultivation in 1949 still remained in the 1970s. Deforestation and land clearing is another important factor contributing to the decrease in natural genetic variability in South and South East Asia. In addition, environmental effects such as flooding and acid rain are recognized as reducing genetic diversity in Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea, respectively. The droughts and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997 and 1998 are also expected to have an impact on genetic diversity. The natural resource base on which agriculture in the region depends is under stress, and a significant proportion of the cropland is fragile. In particular, arid and rain-fed semi-arid areas, areas with unreliable rainfall and areas with steep slopes and/or poor soils, face severe
environmental degradation. It has been estimated that the uncropped cultivable area per person in South Asia, which is presently 0.05 ha/person, will be halved in 20 years, while that of East Asia (excluding China) will drop by a third to 0.1 ha/person. These estimates indicate that the region has the least potential for cultivated area expansion of any region in the world, except for the Near East and North Africa. Deforestation, overgrazing and other unsustainable land use management practices are known to increase water and wind erosion. It is estimated that due to these conditions, one-third of arable land in India will be irreparably damaged before the end of the century. In addition to the above factors, agricultural land area in Asia is also diminishing due to deforestation and cash crop plantation agriculture, for example oil palm, industrialization and urban development, especially in countries such as China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. The water resource base, one of the most important resources on which agriculture depends, is also under stress. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has estimated that water availability in Asia, which fell by half in the past 30 years, might fall by another 35% by the year 2000. In order to sustain agricultural and food production growth, land degradation and increasing water scarcity should be addressed. In addition, the limited cultivable area for expansion and the continuing conversion of fertile agricultural land to non-agricultural uses such as industrial, residential and transport uses, mean that production increases have to come mainly from yield increases. 2. THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
Crop and livestock farming are the main agricultural activities of most small farmers in Asia. As elaborated in the previous chapter, climatic regimes, availability of arable land, production and productivity varies in the region and within countries. Predominant cereals are rice, wheat, maize, sorghum and millets and supplementary staples such as roots, tubers and yams are also extensively cultivated. Oil crops include coconut, oil palm, soybean, rapeseed and to a lesser extent, sesame, cotton seed and sunflower. Food legumes, such as soybean, lentil, faba beans, field peas, mungbean, chickpea, cowpea, groundnut and pigeon pea also play a vital role, not only as food, but also as soil nitrogen replenishers in many cereal-legume rotations. In addition, the region has rich genetic resources of tropical, subtropical and temperate fruits such as banana, mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, citrus, avocado, grapes, melons, kiwifruit, bread fruit, pome and stone fruits, and many vegetable crops. While livestock farming is a major food source in the northern plains of Asia, it is integrated into a mixed-farming system in the southern region, using crop residues as a principal source of feed and animal waste as fertilizer. Oxen provide much needed draft animal power for tillage. Although the share of agriculture in the GDP has declined steadily since the mid-1980s, agriculture remains a driving economic force and a major employer in many Asian countries. Over 65% of the region’s inhabitants still live in rural areas and agriculture employs more than half of the economically active population. Agricultural production in the region has shown a steady increase over the past few decades. The region’s total cereal production, however, is variable, primarily because of weather-related problems. In 1994, for example, inclement weather in China held agricultural growth to 3.5% where floods or droughts affected more than 50 million hectares of cropland. Overall, regional agricultural performance remained strong for most of the 1990s helped by strong regional
economic growth until 1997. Rapidly growing economies, broad-based income growth and expanding export revenues allowed many countries to strengthen their import capacity to meet increasing consumer demands for products such as beef and poultry. Since mid-1997, however, the severe economic recession throughout the region has curtailed expansion of agricultural production. In addition, drought and extensive fires, particularly in Indonesia, have seriously reduced the output from plantation agriculture, especially oil palm. Weather patterns have been erratic in recent times and natural disasters frequent. However, most countries are developing irrigation systems that will ensure more consistent cropping systems. Due to new technological innovations, including better varieties, an increase in cropping intensity and the application of modern crop production practices have improved crop yields. As a result, the total cereal production increased by 262 million tonnes from 1981 to 1994 despite a reduction of 2 million ha in cultivated land areas for cereals (FAO, 1995). However, both domestic and international demand for agricultural products in the region is expected to increase pressure on agricultural sustainability. 2.1 National Agricultural Policies
Most of the region’s governments recognize the importance of agriculture in the economy. Therefore, sustainable agricultural development and food security are high priorities in national development plans in the region. A primary objective of agricultural policies in most countries is to achieve self-sufficiency in strategic crops. Due to structural adjustment programmes, the policy environment for agriculture is dominated by the general targets of economic liberalization and market-oriented reforms. Efficiency of operations has often been constrained by technical, financial, social and infrastructure limitations. Also, regional agricultural markets are often heavily regulated. Some countries have subsidized producer prices for rice and agricultural inputs like fertilizer. These policies have presented difficulties for privatization and as a result, major policy shifts have been required in most countries to promote agricultural liberalization. The recession that engulfed Asia doubtless will slow the implementation of liberalizing marketing policies. 2.2 Implications of Land Tenure and Ownership
Millions of small farmers suffer from the burden of tenancy. In most Asian countries, land is controlled by government and a few landlords. As a result, tenant farmers often show little interest in adopting land conservation practices that require additional labor and have no shortterm benefit. The land is seldom well managed and the result is a steady deterioration of the natural resource base. This has led some countries, including India and Sri Lanka, to adjust their land tenure systems to achieve food production targets. Laws have been passed that limit land ownership size to 20 ha per family. Other land, owned by private landlords and the state, was distributed to landless farmers and some tenant farmers at the rate of about one hectare per family. Laws were also passed to prevent fragmentation of ancestral properties because it was not an economically viable practice for succeeding generations to further divide small land holdings. With ownership transferred to tenant farmers, land was better managed and food production increased. Farmers became more receptive to the availability of improved seed and were willing to try new agro-techniques to improve their traditional systems. Therefore, land tenure and ownership are central issues in a production system that requires efficient utilization of resources to maximize output from small holdings.
The agreements between tenant and landowner have been left to the respective parties to resolve. There are situations where the landowners receive two-thirds and in some instances three-quarters of each harvest. Some governments in the region have put in place legislation to safeguard the rights of a tenant farmer. For example, in Sri Lanka the Paddy Land Act gives tenant rice farmers a two-third share of the harvest with the other one-third for the landowner. These measures have made most landowners, who are financially better off, assist their tenants by providing fertilizer and quality seed. As a result, yields have increased to benefit both the landowner and tenant farmers. 2.3 Irrigation and Water Resources
Erratic rainfall is a major cause of crop failures in most countries of the region. To ensure stability in agricultural systems, it is imperative that countries develop land use management policies that promote soil and water conservation and other natural resource management practices. In addition, conservation programmes are needed to harvest water from seasonal rains and exploit ground aquifers for small farmers. Another alternative is to exploit irrigation potential in the region. On a global scale, the region has 160 million ha of irrigated land, which accounts for about 62% of the total world irrigated area. More than 50% of the total irrigated area available in the region is used for rice production (FAO, 1996). However, irrigation facilities vary widely from country to country (FAO, 1995; Singh, 1992). China, Sri Lanka, Japan, and the Republic of Korea irrigate more than half of their arable lands. In comparison, less than 5% of arable land is under irrigation in Cambodia while in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Nepal it ranges between 30-40%. Irrigation facilities are steadily increasing at an annual rate of 8.5% in Nepal, 5% in Bangladesh, 4.8% in Thailand, 4.3% in Indonesia, 3.8% in Laos and 3.3% in the Philippines. Expansion of irrigated farming contributes greatly to higher food crop production in the region, where yield increases have reached 15-20%. Without investment in water management infrastructure supported by institutional reforms, the prospects for improving seed and food production in the region are limited. Water control infrastructure should not be developed in isolation, but must be part of wider regional development programmes. At the design level, public authorities should be responsible for the construction and operation of dams, headworks and main irrigation and drainage canals, while users’ associations or the private sector should be responsible for managing, and building where possible, the on-farm distribution system. Such irrigation projects require large amounts of money, thus requiring innovative ways to finance. 2.4 Agricultural Research
National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), which work to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, will continue to play a major role in national and regional development. Most NARS in Asia are composed of various national agricultural research institutes, agricultural universities, private sector firms, NGOs and farmers’ organizations. They are complemented by International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs), through the CGIAR system or other multilateral and bilateral arrangements. However, the role each institution plays in agricultural research varies from country to country. Since the major agro-ecological zones in Asia-Pacific are varied, the type of crops grown, the technological input requirements and the major research objectives also differ within the region. Given the agro-ecological diversity of the region, the constraints faced, and the micro-environmental
aspects of small-farmer production problems, the expertise NARS can offer appears critical to increasing food production. NARS of many Asian countries such as India, China, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan have relatively well-developed infrastructures for agricultural research. The FAO assists NARS in the Asian region in developing their research capabilities through appropriate programmes in infrastructure development, training and networking. In addition, many national institutions have the capability to assist other countries in the region to upgrade agricultural research. The region also receives funding from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, other donor countries and organizations, and NGOs, which helps provide necessary funding for national governments to develop agriculture. Asia also has three CGIAR centers with primary interests in regional crops and their management: the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India; the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines; and, the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) in Sri Lanka. Through their research, the centers support the efforts of many countries. Other CGIAR centers in the region are the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) in the Philippines and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia. CGIAR centers, such as CIMMYT, CIP, CIAT, ICRAF, ILRI, and IPGRI, also have regional programmes in Asia. These IARCs support NARS through the dissemination of improved varieties and the supply of advanced breeding lines to enable each country to select varieties adapted to their conditions. These international and regional centers are also repositories for conserving germplasm and preventing genetic erosion of cultivated plant species. The centers also develop appropriate agronomic, agroforestry, aquaculture and natural resource management technologies, protocols and agricultural policies. The role of the private sector in agricultural research is limited when compared to the support and significant roles played by them in developed countries. In addition, although a large number of scientists from the region have been trained, there has typically been a high attrition rate of valuable human resources from almost every country. 2.5 Agricultural Extension Services
Extension has a vital role in supporting agricultural development and achieving sustainable seed and food security. Every country in the Asian region has at least one agricultural extension system, designed to assist farmers through education, improved farming methods and techniques, and increased production efficiency and income. Although the objectives of extension services are common throughout the region, approaches used differ between countries. In countries such as India, ROK, Mongolia, Nepal, and Thailand extension services are centrally controlled while in Bhutan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Western Samoa, they are locally managed. Major extension constraints in Asia-Pacific lie outside the agricultural extension system per se but fall within the general policy framework, organizational structure, and financial backing of governments. Even the best designed, staffed, and managed extension services cannot produce results in an unfavorable policy environment and with insufficient resources. The major issues and challenges to improve the effectiveness of agricultural extension systems in Asia-Pacific countries include: (i) Providing field assistants with up-to-date and appropriate technical knowledge;
(ii) (iii) Low (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) 3. 3.1
Effective in-service training of extension personnel including human relations skills; Improving infrastructure support such as transportation, equipment and field facilities. salaries and limited opportunities for advancement also hinders the effectiveness of extension agents; Ensuring that service-oriented and educational aspects of extension are balanced; Improving access for rural women and youth to extension services; Making special effort in developing regions to increase operational funds for extension services; and Improving the profile of agricultural extension throughout Asia and the Pacific relative to sustainable food security. SEED SECURITY AND FOOD SECURITY Importance of Quality Seed in Agricultural Development
The availability to farmers of quality seeds of a wide range of varieties and crops is one of the major factors required to achieve food security in Asia and the Pacific. The potential benefits which accrue to farmers from the use of good quality seed of improved varieties include enhanced productivity, better adaptation, tolerance to environmental stress, higher harvest index, reduced risks from pest and disease pressure, improved grain quality and higher profits. Seed is also the key to optimum use of natural resources and, according to its provenance and the breeding goal, seed determines the requirements for inputs such as pesticides, fertilizer and agricultural technology. It is also of considerable significance that when agricultural production increases through use of improved varieties in a given area, farmers and their communities derive added socio-economic benefit. Such activities can increase the value of locally produced crops, generate local employment, stimulate local cash flow, and through processing, marketing, and related activities can bring about improvement in socio-economic status and the quality of life. The supply of seed in rural communities is normally met by the informal seed supply systems whereby the farmer saves part of the harvest or exchanges and/or trades seeds with farmers in the community. To a lesser extent, the formal seed supply systems deliver certified seed to some farmers, usually those who trade significant proportions of their production on a regular basis. 3.2 Disasters and Seed Supply
There are situations where the supply of seed is interrupted, such as during natural disasters and/or large-scale civil disturbance. Quality seed of adapted varieties delivered at the right time constitutes one of the primary inputs to help re-establish displaced farmers. In the past, most affected countries have received planting seed aid but invariably little or no consideration has been placed on variety adaptation, seed quality, agronomic requirements and cultural preferences. Seeds brought in by relief operations continue to be introduced to disaster areas with inadequate attention paid to the danger of genetic contamination and/or displacement of traditional varieties. Coordination is needed between emergency relief and long-term development aid programmes to avoid problems such as introduction of inappropriate crop varieties, diseases and pests by the relief operations, which may affect future farmer productivity and hinder reestablishment of food security.
In addition, emergency responses have been ad hoc and voluntary, as was the case in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Laos. There has been no established regional capacity to respond appropriately to such disasters, no clear description of responsibilities, and no coordinating mechanism to bring the various agencies and organization together for planning and implementation of emergency seed supply during and following disasters. Local, national and regional strategies are essential to cope with emergency situations. In response to these concerns raised at the 1996 Leipzig Conference, FAO was given the mandate to administratively coordinate programmes for rapid acquisition and multiplication, restoration and provision of seed to countries in need. Coordination was to be done collaboratively with WFP, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), NARS, IARCs, regional plant genetic resource networks, governments of the countries affected, donor countries and NGOs. To become food self-sufficient, Asia-Pacific farmers should have on-going access to quality seed in both normal and crisis situations. Countries in the region should, therefore, develop seed security policies to insure that seed of the right varieties is readily available, at an affordable price, in sufficient quantity at the appropriate planting time. In this regard, FAO initiated a Special Programme for Food Security in 1994. This programme, which is specifically designed to assist Low-Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) to increase and stabilize food production and productivity, has seed security as one of its principal strategies (FAO, 1997b). 3.3 Plant Genetic Resources Utilization and Conservation
Available data show that in the Asian region, there is an enormous amount of valuable germplasm with several centers of origin and the associated centers of biodiversity of cultivated plants, namely, India, China, Malaysian Archipelago and Central Asia. There is also much potential for exploitation of the wild germplasm base that has not yet been fully explored. Many tropical fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants are still harvested from the wild and await exploitation. Apart from such germplasm, Asia has an abundance of landraces and indigenous varieties that are genetically diverse and frequently are adapted to low input agriculture. Crop development has for centuries depended on the utilization of gene pools that have evolved through natural selection in a multitude of diverse eco-systems. However, the genetic diversity of plant resources is rapidly being reduced in certain regions due to natural causes and human activity. Without a global effort to preserve biodiversity, there will be little that plant breeders can do to extract genes for incorporation into new varieties needed to withstand stresses and enhance quantity and quality of food crops over the long-term. The conservation of genetic resources and minimization of genetic erosion is a goal of international, regional, and national organizations. The role of farming communities in the utilization and conservation of heterogeneous traditional varieties has been recognized as critical to the future development of agriculture. While most countries in the region have functional programmes for conservation of indigenous germplasm, others such as Cambodia and Laos have lost valuable genetic material due to civil strife and natural calamities. Generally, where genetic material has been lost there has been the denudation of forests and the introduction of newly bred varieties of crops that have replaced the landraces. To compound the situation, plant variety rights and proposed international agreements under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) may also have far-reaching repercussions.
Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 spelled out the strategy for promoting sustainable development through conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. This strategy involves, amongst other considerations, the concept of in situ conservation and the establishment of ex situ germplasm collections. To achieve this, the international forum through the CBD concurred that member countries should develop institutional capacities to conserve and utilize genetic resources, and develop programmes in the public sector to evolve sustainable agricultural systems. These deliberations also resolved to duplicate and share genetic resources of all seed and planting materials and regulate movement using accepted quarantine procedures. Action programmes for such conservation and utilization of indigenous germplasm to diversify agriculture and establish plant and seed improvement schemes are other decisions taken by the CBD. However, there are issues that need further debate and possible compromise, especially in relation to the recognition of Farmers' Rights, code of conduct on biotechnology, Plant Breeders' Rights and other aspects of the ownership, utilization and benefit sharing of plant genetic resources intellectual property. FAO has been entrusted with the monitoring and evaluation of the conservation and use of genetic resources on a global scale. FAO is to act as custodian for a global conservation strategy and to coordinate and integrate activities of the various national, regional and international organizations that deal with the conservation, testing, improvement and distribution of newly developed seeds and planting material of food crops. 4. SEED SUPPLY SECTOR
The seed supply sector in the region is comprised of both formal and informal systems. The formal seed supply systems include public and private institutions engaged in breeding, seed multiplication, processing, quality control, seed certification, and seed storage and distribution. The activities of the formal sector are limited to the major food crops and high-value cash crops. The informal seed supply systems are comprised of indigenous strategies used by farmers to improve the quality, quantity and distribution of seed. 4.1 Seed Requirement and Planning
Seed requirement and planning is primarily a government activity throughout Asia, often centrally controlled and executed through state ministries and parastatal organizations. Agricultural statistics are collected through a series of surveys and annual seed requirements are computed for each crop (mostly cereals) by using the average seeding rate for each crop. Based on the capabilities of the formal seed sector that produces the improved seed, an achievable target for annual replacement is planned and entrusted to the seed producers. In many countries, this process seldom leads to accurate predictions. The reasons largely result from deficiencies in the process, which can be summarized as follows: (i) (ii) (iii) there are discrepancies in the statistics collected and extrapolations are made in the absence of field surveys; government instrumentalities tend to be too bureaucratic; poor processing and storage of seed, and lack of reliable transport and delivery systems; and
(iv) low level of farmer acceptance and adoption of new varieties due to agronomic, economic or social preferences. 4.2. Formal Seed Supply Systems
The formal seed supply systems, which are comprised of public and private sector seed entities, are generally represented by all official or organized seed production and supply programmes. The formal seed supply systems in the region are carried out for the most part by the public sector through government or semi-autonomous institutions. These institutions have a certain degree of financial independence although their operational activities are determined by official policy rather than by market forces. This seed supply system is mainly concerned with the production of cereal seed with less emphasis on other crops. Private companies are also involved in seed production and distribution, especially in Japan, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia. A few private companies with 100% local investors and indigenous expertise have also been established in India for the production of seed for the domestic market and for export. Already, more than 200 seed companies have been started in that country. It is also common that seed supply systems are assisted by donor agencies in the region. The status of the formal seed supply system in the region varies from country to country. Generally, the formal seed sector supplies 10% or less of seed requirements. For instance, in Sri Lanka, only 7% of the total rice seed requirement is supplied by the formal seed sector although 97% of the total rice growing area is cropped with improved varieties. In Thailand, rice seed production is the most important activity of the formal seed sector but it supplies only 8% of the national requirements. In India, only about 10% of rice seed is distributed as certified seed, and in Myanmar the formal seed supply systems provided only 4.4% of rice seed required in the 19961997 season. Sri Lanka’s formal seed sector supplies 5.8% of maize and 0.8% of groundnut seed requirement, and in Myanmar 5.1% of maize and 1% of groundnut seed is supplied by the formal sector. These statistics are evidence that the informal seed supply systems are the major sources of seed for Asia-Pacific farmers. Varietal development and seed research. Most countries in Asia have plant breeding/selection programmes involving crossing, selection and testing of new varieties. The governments through NARS carry the responsibility for variety development, especially for priority staples and subsidiary food crops. The majority of countries in the region depend to some extent on the supply of advanced breeding lines from international and regional research centers. Bhutan, Cambodia and Laos, which have relatively fewer human resources, rely on NARS from neighboring countries, in addition to the international and regional research centers. In countries such as Japan, China, Republic of Korea and India, where seed improvement programmes are better organized, varieties can be bred and released for specific environments while varieties with wider adaptation are recommended for national release. Despite the fact that several countries in the region have well-developed crop improvement programmes, and the support provided by the IARCs, there is still a general lack of good varieties adapted to marginal areas and/or low-input management systems throughout the region. The private sector involvement in plant breeding, which is believed to be the key to achieving optimum results in variety development, is very limited in the region and only in a few countries. However, if the private sector is to play a greater role in varietal development, it is important that Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBRs) be enacted within national programmes. Except for Japan, which is the only UPOV member in the region, no other Asia-Pacific countries have PBR legislation. As a result, the involvement of most private seed companies in variety development in Asia is mostly
concentrated on hybrid development. In the region, Australia and New Zealand are also members of UPOV. Variety testing and release procedures vary from country to country in Asia-Pacific. However, in general, variety release programmes comprise the following steps. After genetic purity is attained and desired traits are fixed, the breeder enters the new variety in trials conducted at research centers. Good performers are then entered into national variety evaluation trials conducted for several seasons and years across the country. Depending on their performance, recommendations for release are made either for regional use or for national release if the variety has a good overall performance. The breeder, in association with the extension services, then conducts verification trials in farmers’ fields, incorporating the new entry and tested against standard recommended varieties. A minimum number of on-farm locations stipulated by the national variety release committee, is needed for acceptance of the entry. Reports providing information on the pedigree of the variety and performance records are submitted. In countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Taiwan where International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) approved stations exist, the Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) test results are needed for the new entry. The seed certification service is expected to test the new entry over a number of seasons. Other countries, such as China, India, Nepal, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand are ISTA members but have their own seed standards and internal quality controls. A variety name and/or number is assigned to new releases and a seed increase programme is undertaken by the seed production sector prior to release to farmers. Multiplication of a new variety in the formal seed sector is controlled by state and parastatal agencies, except in a few cases, such as India, Thailand and the Philippines, where basic seed is supplied to certain private seed companies for production of certified seed. In other countries, there is a contract growing system that involves farmers who produce certified seed and supply the seed at a premium price. Once the variety is released, the breeder is expected to proceed with notification, specifying the characteristics as required by the seed legislation of a country, if such seed laws have been enacted. Private seed companies that are operating in the region have elaborated the main factors that restrict their involvement in variety development: (i) There is a lack of PBR legislation throughout the Asia-Pacific region except in Japan. Countries such as the Philippines, India and Pakistan are in the process of enacting PBR legislation. China, Indonesia and Malaysia have initiated legislation drafting procedures to become members of UPOV; (ii) There is a lack of trust between the public and private seed sectors; (iii) There are increasing sources of cheaper and uncertified seeds including seed from the informal supply systems. Private seed companies urge that the trading of uncertified seed should be discouraged; (iv) Many countries require that the origin of the variety be revealed before it can be accepted and released. This could reduce private company involvement even in hybrid development; (v) Varieties introduced or developed by private seed companies are often given low priority by national research and testing committees; (vi) Due to procedures which characterize government variety testing programmes, the special variety attributes claimed by seed companies may not be correctly evaluated;
(vii) Procedures for acceptance and release are lengthy and sometimes generate unnecessary costs; (viii) Private companies sometimes doubt the authenticity of results submitted by government scientists; and (ix) Seed imports by private seed companies are also regulated and sometimes severely restricted by stringent phyto-sanitary regulations in every country. In countries where registration procedures exist only for the crops handled by the public sector, such as the principal staples, seed of other crops can be imported, provided the seed certification agency is informed. Test plots grown by the seed company must be inspected and approved for inclusion on the national list. This method is being followed in Sri Lanka where many vegetable varieties have been introduced into the production system. Except for the registration and acceptance of varieties offered by the IARCs through regional evaluation programmes, there are no other regional agreements between Asia-Pacific countries to have common lists of crops for voluntary exchange either in the public or private seed sectors. Certain regional initiatives such as ASEAN, APEC and SAARC will eventually establish such agreements in the spirit of regional cooperation through preferential trade agreements that will include the exchange of commercial seed. Most governments are restricting indiscriminate imports of nondescript seed by companies which attempt to flood seed markets at the cost of valuable foreign exchange. Such restrictions are also aimed at protecting local seed interests. There should be a more rationalized importation policy in every country to make a genuine effort to allow inflow of good material, especially in countries with liberal open market policies. Where the national research system is unable to cater to all needs of the farming sector, import of seed is sometimes a necessity. There should, however, not be any dilution of quarantine regulations with regard to intervention procedures to detect pests and diseases that may be introduced with imported seed. Hybrid seed development. Hybrid vegetable crops have been used throughout the Asia-Pacific region for several years. Cereal hybrid seeds have been produced in the region where China pioneered the hybrid rice programme and hybrid rice covers over 58% of the total rice growing area (APSA, 1997). Other advances in hybrid rice production using indica varieties have been recently developed at IRRI (Virmani and Sharma, 1993). The use of biotechnological innovations, anther culture to produce haploid inbred lines, and identification of male cytoplasmic sterility and thermo-sensitive genetic male sterility lines have advanced the technology of production of F1 hybrid seed that yield over 4 t/ha. India has also advanced in the development of hybrid millets. The use of hybrid rice under high input management provides new hope to farmers who can reap 15-20 percent more grain than the best semi-dwarf rice varieties currently available. Scientists at IRRI indicate that the increase in yield is due to increase in total biomass, spikelet number and seed weight. It is predicted that rice breeding technology will utilize the indica/japonica hybrids using the best semi-dwarf rice as the indica parent, to produce hybrids yielding as high as 15 t/ha. The ultimate goal would be to enhance and harness hybrid vigor and produce true breeding hybrids through use of apomixis to enable even small farmers to continue to use the same hybrid seed many times as in the case of open-pollinated (OP) seed. Further research on hybrid rice is being actively pursued in China, India and at IRRI. A two-line and a one-line approach, instead of the conventional three-line system for hybrid seed production is being actively pursued in China.
In the two-line approach, both thermo-sensitive genetic male sterility (TGMS) and photosensitive genetic male sterility (PGMS) are being exploited. Public and private institutions in India, China, Japan and Sri Lanka are also developing hybrids of maize, sorghum, oilseed, forage and vegetable crops, in addition to rice and millet (APSA, 1997). The adoption of cereal hybrids has been limited as seed costs are too high. The fact that hybrid seed doesn’t breed true constitutes an additional drawback for its use in the region. Inadequate pricing policies, procurement problems, lack of incentives to the private sector, lack of support for research and development, lack of quality seeds of improved hybrids and maintenance of a poor database have been highlighted as other causes for low adoption of rice hybrids. Biotechnological applications in plant and seed propagation. Most countries in the region make only marginal use of the latest biotechnological innovations. The reasons for this are varied and many. The human resource base in these countries is not well developed to cater to modern needs. Such programmes have been mostly confined to universities and few research centers, whilst the private commercial sector is just beginning to exploit this technology. Rapid multiplication techniques for vegetatively propagated crops have been successfully used for a number of crops, particularly plantation and vegetable crops. Climatically, the region has high potential for development of fruit and plantation crops. The lack of quality propagation material in appreciable quantities has limited expansion. Through the assistance of international and regional centers and expertise available in a few countries such as Japan, ROK, Philippines, Thailand, China, India and Taiwan, considerable progress has been made in a few crops. Biotechnology techniques go far beyond the rapid propagation of elite plant material. Countries need to gear up their research and development systems to use biotechnological procedures in such areas as virus and disease elimination, molecular techniques and breeding methods, conservation of germplasm, development of biological pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, use of N-fixing rhizobia and mycorrhiza associations. Involvement of the private sector has been observed in the recent past in the exploitation of molecular biology techniques and breeding projects. Molecular biology has provided in recent years valuable tools in discovering new means to tackle pest problems. Techniques in the rapid diagnosis of viruses, nematodes and other pathogenic micro-organisms using ELISA or the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the identification of individual pathogen types and their frequency, have been developed in a number of countries as well as at IRRI. Genetically modified organism (GMO) technology is frequently cited as providing the technology to greatly improve crop production (New Scientist, 1998). GMO-based changes forecast to benefit farmers in developing countries include varieties precisely adapted to local conditions, fodder crops with increased calories, new types of disease resistance, varieties resistant to specific stresses such as salt and drought, improved nutritional content and modified product functionality. Other advances have been the use of molecular markers to identify resistances controlled by single or groups of genes and the use of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) or random amplified polymorphic techniques to retain genes following incorporation in advanced breeding lines. These techniques accelerate breeding programmes. However, there are many reservations about the likely benefits that will accrue to resource-poor farmers. GMO crops are likely to aggravate problems of increasing genetic uniformity in small
farmer crops and lead to further erosion of genetic variability. Transnational control of plant genetic intellectual property is of major concern to developing countries. Many also consider that only farmers in developed countries will benefit from GMO technology, possibly to the competitive disadvantage of developing countries. Many researchers in the region are actively engaged in breeding for abiotic stresses such as moisture stress or waterlogging, extremes of temperature, photoperiod, chemical and physical soil problems such as salinity. Breeding for drought resistance in rainfed rice has received the attention of IRRI scientists. The lead in such research has been given by government as well as private organizations to promote biotechnology programmes. The Republic of Korea has launched the Biotechology-2000 programme which involves US$20 billion over a 14-year period (Swinbanks, 1994). Japan has also launched an ambitious molecular biology programme to elucidate the rice genome. With these advances, it will be possible in the next decade to utilize new molecular techniques and DNA clones for direct selection of desirable traits in rice and other strategic crops for the region. The adoption of improved varieties in the region. As is the case in most developing countries, few farmers living in marginal areas of Asia have adopted improved varieties produced by the NARS and the IARCs. The level of adoption of improved varieties varies from country to country and from one crop to another in the region. Under any agricultural system, socio-economic factors and traditional practices can have a great influence on the adoption of new technologies, including improved crop varieties. These factors include labor requirements, size and grouping of families (extended or single family systems) and financial status of households, price ratios and land tenure systems which can thereby affect access to inputs, credit and markets, and impact farmers’ capacities and preferences. The reasons for this low adoption of improved varieties in Asia are multiple. However, the main reasons can be summarized as follows: (i) A lack of plant breeding objectives which correspond with the needs of farmers. Plant breeding strategies often focus on the total usable yield and high harvest index while tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and adaptation to mixed cropping, which often have high priority for small farmers in the region, are seldom addressed. Furthermore, specific culinary, organoleptic and storability preferences and requirements, which are significantly important to small farmers have rarely been considered by plant breeders; Imbalance in variety development. Plant breeding and varietal development programmes in many Asia-Pacific countries are limited to a few crops, principally maize, rice, and sorghum. Despite their importance in the diet of the population, tuber crops, grain legumes, and vegetables crops receive little attention, if any, compared to cereals; Low adaptation of the new varieties to most farmers’ conditions. The selection process for these new varieties are carried out under high input conditions and are, in many cases, outperformed by the traditional varieties cultivated under low-input management systems common to most farmers; and Lack of on-farm variety testing for farmer evaluation.
Given the economic status of limited-resource farmers in the region, the high cost of good quality seed may also discourage its use even if farmers are convinced of the attributes. Given these conditions, setting up formal seed systems can only be successful if economic policies are equitable to both farmers and seed traders. Important policies may include establishing realistic
exchange rates, providing incentives such as credit loans, ensuring remunerative prices to farmers for their produce that take into account the risk element of producing a particular crop, and others that reduce the risks associated with farming. Needs assessments of farmers with limited resources are necessary before new technologies, including varieties, are developed and introduced. The outcome of such a study will also guide policy makers in decisions concerning on-farm production and utilization of improved varieties by limited-resource farmers to enable the design of appropriate economic policies to encourage use of improved varieties. Seed production systems. Seed production in the formal seed supply systems differs from country to country, but many of the present systems have similar principals. In general, multiplication of recommended varieties begin with the release of a variety. Pre-release multiplication is undertaken by research and state owned enterprises if a larger seed volume is required for widespread release. Breeders’ seed, and/or foundation and basic seed is produced under research supervision in order to ensure genetic and physical purity. State farms and semi-autonomous seed companies would undertake the production of certified seed under the supervision of a seed certifying agency. In some instances, especially in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the public sector uses private seed companies or approved contract growers to produce certified seed. The seed that is purchased from growers after certification is processed, cleaned, packaged and stored by the public enterprises. This is a model that is recently becoming popular in many other Asian countries, especially when the volume of seed to be produced cannot be handled by the public sector alone. India reported that private seed companies and sometimes growers’ cooperatives take active roles in seed production either from breeders’ seed supplied by the public sector agencies or from their own varieties that have been approved by the national variety registration and release committee. When the private seed companies use the contract growers, they provide supplementary assistance such as subsidized inputs, supervised credit and inspection to ensure high quality, in addition to the certification services provided by the national seed certifying agencies. Most of the vegetable seed and some cereals are produced in this manner in India. Due to new liberalization policies, a substantial number of private seed companies have been established in India. The private seed sector prefers to produce high value crops and hybrids as their investments are geared towards greater margins of profit. Unlike the public seed sector which maintain buffer stocks of seed, the private sector tends to supply only sufficient seed to meet market demands. In a few countries such as Thailand, Republic of Korea and Japan, breeders’ seed is directly supplied to reputable seed farmers who grow, process and market the seed on their own as ‘commercial ’ seed or ‘truthfully labeled’ seed. Only the formal seed sector in a few countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, the Philippines, India, China and DPRK have public sector organizations which undertake seed production of potato and have invested heavily in this crop. Some of these countries in Asia obtain their annual certified seed requirements of potato from European seed companies. Others purchase small quantities of basic seed and use this material in local multiplication programmes to produce their own certified and commercial seed. Yet others are assisted with pre-basic seed by the International Potato Center (CIP) on a regular basis to ensure virus-free material in the seed production programmes. In countries such as China, DPRK, Thailand and India, the formal
seed sector is well equipped with tissue culture and virus cleaning facilities and is independent of any multinational companies. The private sector has also entered the potato seed production business in a few countries in the region. Quality control. Seed produced by the formal seed sector is required to go through several testing procedures in order to maintain quality. The investment to implement such procedures is important to give credibility to the product marketed. Seed legislation that stipulates quality standards for each crop need to be followed. Physical and genetic purity, isolation distances of seed lots to avoid pollen contamination in cross-pollinated crops, seed health, vigor and germinability in the field and the seed laboratory are basic elements in a quality control programme. China, India, Nepal, Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand are members of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) and adhere to standard seed testing procedures. There is no seed legislation in force in Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos at the time of reporting. These countries, however, have their own internal quality control systems following ISTA guidelines. In many instances, seed certification procedures are applicable only to major staples while other crops are subjected to internally controlled testing procedures that vary in every country. Seed processing. The majority of countries in the region have processing facilities but many have insufficient capacities to meet full requirements. For example, in China, nearly half the seed is hand threshed and cleaned. Seed cleaning, transport to the processing units and distribution to peripheral units for storage increase seed production costs. In other countries, mobile processing units are used to reduce costs. In some countries, most of the seed production programmes are concentrated in areas close to processing plants to reduce transport cost. The contract growers usually pre-clean seed often by traditional methods before supplying it to processing centers. In Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Southern India the majority of crops mature at the same time in a given season, which puts pressure on the cleaning and processing system. This situation forces seed producing organizations in these countries to handle more than one crop. Due to lack of facilities and trained personnel, these countries register substantial losses each season. The coordination of seed multiplication, transport, processing, bagging, storage and marketing require enormous managerial and technical skill to maintain the quality throughout. Seed storage. Three levels of storage are used in the formal seed supply systems in Asia. There are short-term storage at processing plants and other processing points, medium-term storage between processing plants and marketing outlets and long term storage (usually less than 2 years) for seed security in the event of natural disasters and crop failures during certain years. In specific instances, the tropical climate does not provide the environment for the storage of vegetable seeds and air-conditioned storage is essential to maintain viability. These facilities are capital intensive and expensive to maintain. Air-conditioned storage also falls within the long-term storage category. In climates where low temperatures and low humidity is experienced, some countries such as China and India, resort to open air storage for short periods when permanent storage facilities are insufficient. Durable seeds, such as cereals, are also stored in this manner without losing their viability provided the seed is well dried and protected from foreign materials and pests. India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have recently invested in storage systems for their seed corporations and have better facilities similar to those found in the countries of south East Asia and the Far East. Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia are countries with high humidity and seed degeneration is fast if humidity control measures are not adopted. In order to protect strategic seed reserves, many countries resort to storage in regions where seeds can be kept viable at lower cost. Movement of large stocks of seed to disaster areas in times of
need may require sophisticated transport equipment that could reach distribution points quickly. Long-term storage, however, entails the additional cost of re-cleaning seed before distribution, as a certain percentage is lost in storage. At times of replacement, older seed stocks are sold to the consumer market to recover some of the costs. At the village level, some countries in Asia have developed inexpensive storage facilities for durable seeds, mostly cereals, in order to reduce storage costs. Seed distribution and marketing. More than 90% of the farmers of Asia are either small-scale commercial farmers who have to sell their surplus production to the market, or subsistence farmers who grow crops for their own needs. Large commercial farms are few and dispersed within countries. This situation complicates the distribution and marketing of seeds and planting material. One of the major reasons why improved seed fails to reach farmers on time is the difficulty of distribution to remote areas. Seed marketing infrastructure is not developed to a sufficient level in most countries of tropical Asia. In others, attempts have been made to establish peripheral distribution and marketing outlets at regional, district and town level, and in cases where the communication network is satisfactory, seed is even distributed at village level. Several countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, ROK, Pakistan and India have closer liaison with the private seed companies and seed merchants to distribute seed produced by the formal seed sector. This has reduced the heavy burden of movement of large seed stocks to distant markets. In countries such as Sri Lanka, Japan and Malaysia that have extensive road networks and private sector seedsmen, seed disposal and marketing systems are efficient. In addition, these countries also have agricultural service centers and cooperatives that also assist in the distribution and marketing of seed. The high crop coverage under improved varieties in these countries illustrates the efficacy of these systems. Pricing policies. Cost of seed sold to farmers depends to a large extent on government policies of each country. Seed marketed by the formal seed supply system is a value-added product, which takes into consideration many factors such as cost of production, multiplication, cleaning, processing, testing, packaging, storage, transport and other costs. Since these seed enterprises are predominantly state-owned organizations, full cost recovery cannot be built into seed prices. Farmers could not afford to pay for the seed. Therefore, the price of seed has to be subsidized by the state. In Asia, seed prices also depend to some extent on the crop species and varieties, multiplication ratio, seed size and viability of the species and investments needed in handling. Profit motive is of less importance to a public organization but equitable distribution to a larger clientele as a service organization takes priority. Private seed companies in the formal sector often avoid the production of such politically sensitive crops for obvious reasons. By virtue of the fact that a company’s profits determine their survival, any crops which are subsidized are avoided, unless there is a subsidy paid to such companies for producing seed for the public corporations under contract. In any event, the private sector often opts to produce seed of high value crops and hybrids to avoid pricing competition from heavily subsidized programmes. 4.3 Informal Seed Supply Systems
The informal seed supply systems are comprised of farmer-managed seed production and management systems and are based on indigenous knowledge and local diffusion mechanisms. These systems include methods such as retaining seed on-farm from previous harvests to plant the following season and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange networks (Cromwell et al., 1992).
There has been little or no government emphasis on the informal seed supply sector in Asia and little is known about its operation in the region. As a result, there is a dearth of documentation relating to the informal seed sector. The information provided in this document on informal seed supply systems is mainly limited to data obtained from the Country Reports and other technical reports provided by countries including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Laos. On-farm variety development. The prevailing farming practices in Asia, the specific requirements of the macro- and micro-ecosystems, and the socio-economic conditions have led to most farmers in the region acting as plant breeders and selecting their own traditional varieties. Farmers have carried out selection of their own indigenous germplasm adapted to their specific ecosystems, crop management systems and socio-economic situations. By virtue of their genetic traits, these landraces have survived and served the farmers for generations. Before the advent of modern breeding methods, farmers acted as the custodians of such valuable germplasm that has a wide genetic base and the ability to survive under many biotic and abiotic stresses. To prevent any pollen contamination in highly cross-pollinated crops such as capsicum, brassicas, etc., farmers in Asia stagger seed planting such that the main crop will flower and produce seed earlier than the seed plot. In other instances, isolation is achieved by planting a seed plot of vegetable crops in a rice or grain field in the off-season, before the regular vegetable season begins. Another method used in many countries in Asia is to interplant a cross-pollinated vegetable crop in rows interspersed with a highland cereal. In these systems, seed is extracted from the middle of a field. These techniques have evolved over centuries of traditional crop husbandry in the region and farmers have been able to maintain a fair degree of genetic purity. Seeds of traditional varieties have also been selected for good storage qualities, and home/farmlevel rustic storage systems ensure re-use of the crop as seed for the following season. Although genetically and physically the seed quality may not be as high as in the formal seed supply systems, the advantages of low price, seed adaptability and easy access to seeds of traditional varieties offset the difference in quality. However, it should be noted that although farmers’ varieties have better adaptability and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses compared to many of the available improved varieties, these qualities tend to deteriorate with time. It is, therefore, clear that unless action is taken to assist the informal sector in the improvement of onfarm variety development, seed production, quality control, seed handling and storage, the majority of farmers in Asia will be denied the benefits of modern crop improvement programmes. Good quality seed of new varieties can enter the same traditional system of seed production if certain refinements are introduced in maintenance of purity and production techniques. If the same traits that farmers prefer in their landraces are incorporated into better performing varieties, farmers can be induced to adopt these new varieties which would increase their food production capacity. With the assistance of the IARCs, many NARS in Asian countries have already embarked on such programmes through a participatory approach in surveying, germplasm collection and utilization of the indigenous gene pools to develop varieties tailor-made to suit traditional systems in the region. Seed processing and storage. Seed processing technologies used by Asian farmers vary within communities and from country to country. The principles and methods that are widely used are briefly described. Farmers select seed on the basis of specific characteristics including plant and seed size, seed color, and maturity levels. Once good seed is identified and threshed, the level of moisture in the
seeds is lowered by sun drying. Through experience, the length of drying and seed appearance after moisture removal is known for each crop. Before placing seed in bags and containers, hand winnowing is carried out to remove lighter and shriveled material. Small quantities are stored in burlap bags while large quantities are stored in earthen jars, metal bins and specially built silos. Commonly seen across Asia are inverted bell-shaped silos with cone-shaped roofs, thatched with straw. After filling the silo, the top may be sealed to prevent rodents and stored grain pests from entering. The material used for a home-level silo varies from region to region. Where cane or bamboo is available, these are split and ‘singed’ to make the strips malleable before weaving the walls of the silo in the same manner as making baskets. The inner and outer sides are then plastered with mud or clay to seal the wall. The whole structure is then mounted on stilts or boulders about a meter from the ground. Once the structure is well dried, it is filled with seed and the cone-shaped roof with adequate protection from rain is constructed. Each silo on the average stores around 40-50 bushels of grain (approximately one ton). This method is extensively used for rice and other cereals. Corn cribs in semi-arid climates, use latticed structures on stilts, which allow slow drying and better aeration during storage. Instead of single seeds, corn cobs are stored until planting time. In the case of semi-perishable seeds such as grain legumes that are generally large-seeded and lose viability in a short time, seed is usually stored in sealed bins. Quite recently, use of polyethylene material is becoming increasingly popular. The commonest material used is the polyethylene sack that is freely available in farming areas which use such bags for distribution of commercial fertilizer. Polysacks are well washed to remove traces of chemical material and used in place of bins and traditional burlap bags. Seeds are carefully dried in the shade for many days before storing. Recalcitrant seeds and bulky seed material are stored in the informal seed supply systems in different ways. In the cooler regions of the tropics, farmers in remote mountain valleys with poor accessibility store seed potato in dark rooms or underground cellars. This method is effective only for seed that is used from season to season. After about 4 months, potato tubers break dormancy and sprout. A new storage method developed by CIP is being increasingly used in the tropical highlands of Asia and in other parts of the world including Africa and South America. The structure resembles a corn crib with slatted sides and several racks. These sides allow about 30% diffused light and the roof provides protection from the elements. Using the diffused light storage system, small farmers are able to successfully store seed potato for 8-10 months. In regions where only one season a year can be used for potato production, this method has been very popular. Small quantities of recalcitrant seed of tropical fruits are also stored by farmers in seed boxes placed indoors. Seed is arranged in layers interspersed with sand or charcoal powder and stratified. Seeds stored in this manner can be kept viable for 4-6 months. Seeds of onion, shallots, garlic and other bulb crops are either stored in structures similar to diffused light stores used for potato, or selected bulbs with the dried leaves attached are bundled and hung up in farmers’ houses until planting time. The presence of dried leaves on the bulbs prevents initiation of the sprouting process. Whilst the former method can store bulbs for 2-3 months only, due to desiccation of outer scale leaves and premature sprouting, bulbs with dried leaves intact can be preserved fresh for 6-8 months. The second method is practiced by small farmers who produce "true seed" from biannual crops such as onions and other allium crops. Seeds of vegetable crops that remain viable for short periods after extraction, are also stored in their pods. It is a common sight in farm-houses to see capsicum, okra, vegetable, cowpea, and
chili hanging in bundles from kitchen roofs where the dry ambient air protects seeds from imbibing moisture and losing viability. These traditional methods of storage are important systems of seed security practiced by farmers which have preserved valuable gene pools for generations. Quality control. Superficially, it would appear that an informal seed exchange system would create problems in maintaining quality. Traditionally built into this system are certain simple but effective safeguards. Since good seed is considered sacred, this is an unwritten law in the region. It is also a question of credibility that farmers and local seed traders require for the success of their seed business through honesty in seed trading. It is considered morally incorrect to provide a grower with low viability seed. Seedsmen or farmers who barter or trade planting material will carry out a routine germination test before seed is traded. Though not very precise, a handful of seed is soaked and germinated to assure its germinability. Before the beginning of a growing season, farmers will test their seed for viability by carrying out a germination test. If most of the seed germinates, the seed will be used for planting. Should the test fail, the farmer will negotiate with a neighbor to barter for better seed. Since a satisfactory field performance is vital to food security, this practice becomes the most crucial one for the farmer’s success. For instance, every rice farmer, without exception, will carry out a pre-germination test a few days before the planting seed is soaked for germination. Usually, seed is soaked overnight and wrapped in banana leaves, placed in the shade and weighted lightly (traditionally known to improve germinability). Quality is also controlled through the use of freshly grown seed. Usually, seed that has been stored for more than one year is replaced by new seed and the old seed sold as grain or used for food. Farmers are also aware that even if germination is satisfactory, field emergence could be affected if seed vitality has diminished through age. No farmer is willing to sacrifice a season through use of inferior seed, as a good harvest is vital to survival, sustenance and food security. In the use of traditional varieties and landraces that are genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous, the question of distinctiveness and uniformity, stipulated in modern seed testing methods, is not a priority. In general, however, a certain degree of uniformity is attained in an area where the same landrace has been grown for long periods of time. Even with the lateral spread of modern varieties, adoption of a variety over large areas takes place over a long time period. More often, the length of the growing season in an area determines the choice of variety. This prevents any genetic or physical mixing and the variety can remain reasonably uniform for many seasons. In areas such as seed quality, low yield potential, storage and processing, the informal sector can benefit from the technology and facilities provided by the formal seed sector, provided farmers are trained to improve their traditional methods. Likewise, the vast gene pool preserved by traditional farming systems and the traditional methods adopted by the informal sector could provide scientists with mechanisms to transfer modern technology to traditional systems at far less cost than currently incurred. On-farm seed production can solve the problems of ineffective seed distribution and poor seed availability by improving rural seed programmes at the farmer and village level. Despite the fact that farmers would like to try out new varieties, many do not because of the high cost of seed. All formal seed production systems have overheads that are added in part to the final seed costs. If seed production were organized on modern lines by the formal seed sector at farmer level, such
costs would be minimal. Seed would be available at the required time and at affordable prices. Good quality seed alone can increase production and productivity which in turn will help small farmers enter the production and marketing chain instead of remaining strictly at the subsistence level of production. Through the lateral spread of new varieties, participatory extension utilizing the knowledge of farmers can help in the diffusion of technology from farmer to farmer. Such information transfer of seed production and related aspects of the seed business could help develop strong rural institutions that are capable of handling their own programmes. Quality control and purity maintenance becomes problematic, especially in cross-pollinated crops. In spite of the selection methods described above, genetic drift occurs in areas where individual farmers grow different “varieties” of the same crop adjacent to each other. This dilutes the selection process and more mixed offspring, often of nondescript quality, occurs from generation to generation. Although self-pollinated crops do not pose this problem, there could be remote chances of physical mixing if more than one variety of a particular crop is grown by the same farmer. There is a need to introduce farmer-friendly and attainable regulatory systems into each country’s seed quality control mechanisms. It would be far better to accept reality and adopt a pragmatic approach to on-farm seed quality control than impose stringent rules and regulations that cannot be enforced. “Truthful labeling” and lower standards than those of the formal seed sector may be the answer. Instead of discouraging the informal seed sector, collaboration between the formal and informal sectors must be encouraged with the objective of upgrading the informal seed system over time. Seed marketing and distribution. Historically, seed distribution systems have existed in AsiaPacific agrarian societies for thousands of years. Good seed was sacred to ancient civilizations. In times of war and famine, the state granaries owned by feudal monarchies distributed seed for food as well as for crop production. Village leaders, rich landlords and better resourced farmers continued the traditional practice of barter, exchanging consumption grain or other produce for good seed at planting time. A form of credit was offered to tenant farmers by landlords who expected a share of the harvest for the seed offered as credit. Even today, the lateral spread of landraces or modern varieties take place in most of Asia through sale and/or exchange of seed, completely independent of the activities of the formal seed sector. In recent times, many communities have changed the barter system to a modern marketing system, where seedsmen in rural societies have commercialized the marketing of seed to growers. If government subsidies or credit are not available, credit is provided by traders who either charge an interest on the cultivation loans provided, or expect the return of the loan with interest in kind. On-farm seed production programmes. The number of on-farm seed production programmes initiated in Asia have increased in recent years. Most of these programmes are supported by governments and assisted by some donors and NGOs. The activities include multiplication of improved selections made by farmers, seed processing, storage and distribution. Due to the prevailing conditions in some Asian countries, farmer-based seed production systems appear to be the most appropriate strategy for developing effective seed supply systems in the region. Advantages of this model include its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. The development of an effective on-farm seed production system requires that:
(i) (ii) (iii) (iv)
surveys are conducted to identify the biological, social, and economic factors of the varieties important to farmers; breeders collaborate closely with farmers; local germplasm is collected for long-term storage in genebanks for future multiplication and use in production; and the low level of technology and minimum quality control procedures that are practiced at the farmer-level are reflected in seed legislation.
When seed programme initiatives are implemented in harsh and fragile environments, crop failures due to drought, floods, hail, frost, and other climatic and edaphic stresses are common. These areas are often situated in remote locations. Under these conditions, it is often difficult to reach targets if unexpected calamities occur. Adequate safeguards frequently cannot be made in time to protect the seed and planting material. In order to avoid these risks, some remedial measures should be taken when designing on-farm seed production programmes, including the following: (i) (ii) areas with some assurance of irrigation or adequate rainfall should be selected and farmers from such areas trained to produce seed; short-season and drought-resistant varieties should be the focus of plant breeders, using the genetic material from existing farmers’ varieties and other appropriate sources of disease and pest resistant germplasm; as is done in some Asian countries, farmers should be kept informed through radio and other mass communication systems of early warnings of sudden weather fluctuations and have access to advisory services for managing their crops; with small investments and support from rural development organizations, every possible water source should be developed; in order to assure sustainable on-farm production of good quality seeds, farmer groups should receive training on a regular basis; and local banks and other lending organizations should be approached to provide credit as an incentive for farmers’ groups interested in on-farm seed production.
(iv) (v) (vi)
Upgrading indigenous systems using the technology available from the formal seed sector would produce the desired goals in food production and food security. The private seed businesses or the public enterprises in isolation or the replacement of one by the other may not provide the desired results. The farmer is a key decision-maker whose participation is needed in the seed production process. Unless this is fully realized, and the seed required is made easily available at affordable prices, investment into any national seed programme is likely to be ineffective. On-farm seed production programmes can also be provided to farmer groups with low cost seed processing machinery on easy repayment terms, group/village level seed storage structures or “seed banks” where individual farmers can deposit their seed and withdraw when needed. Such machinery and infrastructure, which could be serviced and managed by local farmers, could help sustain the system. 4.4 Integrating Formal and Informal Seed Supply Systems
Integration of the public and private seed sectors has been essential for the successful development of the seed industry in several countries. A similar integration is critical to the development of sustainable seed supplies to maintain the level of agricultural productivity
necessary for food security in Asia-Pacific. With the new open market policies and more liberalized economies of many Asian nations, the private seed sector has made considerable progress in the production, sale, importation and export of seed. The emerging private seed sector in India is an example of integration where breeders’ seed and pre-basic seed is sold to private seed companies to produce registered seed and part of the certified seed. Reputable seedsmen from the informal sector are given contracts by the public and private seed sectors to multiply certified seed. A greater percentage of contract grown seed goes through the certification process and enters the formal seed distribution system. The balance of seed that is tested for germination and physical purity but does not go through all the stages of certification, would receive the "truthfully labeled" status. Farmers purchase this seed from the seedsmen and contract growers directly, at lower prices than is paid for certified seed. In this manner, the national seed system has become very dynamic and able to reach farmers through all three channels. Other countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia are also integrating their seed industries, irrespective of the dominant role of public sector organizations in the past. Without collaboration between the formal and informal systems, it will be difficult to achieve substantial improvements in seed production in most Asia-Pacific countries. Collaboration is also fundamental to the preservation of farmers’ traditional varieties and protection of indigenous germplasm from genetic erosion. With the emergence of the private seed sector, many countries are confronted with the respective roles of each sector. For instance, in the public sector there has been heavy investment in human resource and infrastructure development. In every country in the region, plant breeding activities, technology generation and management expertise lie with public enterprises. In most instances, the emphasis in these ventures has been on the handling of staples and other open-pollinated crops. Private seed companies often avoid investment in such crops and focus on hybrid seed and cash crops where farmers are affluent enough to purchase such seed or in places where government provides financial support to the private sector for such programmes. Effective collaboration between the two systems should be possible. The tasks of seed production, processing, storage and distribution within each area should be the functions of the informal sector, while germplasm conservation, plant breeding and variety development, elite seed production, quality control and purity maintenance could be the primary functions of the formal seed sector. 4.5 Linkages in the Asia-Pacific Seed Supply Systems
Seed supply systems depend on different components, such as research, extension, input supply services, distribution and marketing. The neglect of any one component in the seed development chain affects the entire seed supply system. Furthermore, changes in policies of one component may have adverse effects on the performance of the others and jeopardize the development of an emerging seed supply system. Some examples of what may result when linkages are not adequate include: (i) (ii) agricultural research institutions may produce new varieties, but fail to provide varieties with attributes required by farmers; distribution channels for good quality seed may have suitable varieties available but fail to reach small farmers in a timely manner and at affordable cost;
distribution channels for complementary inputs may be ineffective; and extension services or agricultural credit institutions may be ineffective in terms of providing the necessary technical and credit support to farmers.
All the above points could lead to low adoption rates for new varieties, thus affecting the development of the seed supply sector. The majority of seed programmes in Asia-Pacific have been promoting seed system development without paying enough attention to research capabilities, extension services, rural infrastructure, and farmers’ socio-economic conditions and needs. It is also paramount that governments and donor agencies consider the linkages in seed supply systems when defining seed strategies that are best suited for a country. In addition, it is important to be aware of potential negative repercussions to the seed supply sector if changes in other policies concerning services offered to farmers occur. 4.6 National, Regional and International Networking of Seed Programmes
National capability has limited resources to develop seed programmes in each country to cater to future demands. Developing countries have relatively poor infrastructure facilities required by modern seed industries. Although some countries have excellent sources of valuable germplasm, they do not have the scientific expertise to exploit these without outside help. Furthermore, the spirit of collaboration, sharing resources, and mutual exchange of information and seed material is vital for the survival of the region as a whole. For instance, when a pest such as the brown plant hopper sweeps through Asia, resistant strains of rice that can transfer such traits may be in a local variety in another country. To achieve this objective, a joint effort has to be made where regional and international collaboration succeed in helping countries with similar problems. Regional programmes and networking such as the FAO/UNDP funded vegetable research and the food grains networks links NARS of many countries in sharing experiences through exchange of information, scientists and germplasm. These programmes helped in linking activities in Bangladesh, Nepal, DPRK, China, Thailand and extending the network to all countries in Asia. Such collaborative activities have benefited these countries in developing their vegetable and food grain production, including varietal development and seed production. Similarly, the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) through its regional programmes in south East Asia, Indochina and south Asia, has been active in training and disseminating valuable germplasm throughout Asia for the last 20 years. The future success of national programmes will depend on linkages such as these, irrespective of political differences. The Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) is the outcome of the need for regional collaboration in the seed industry. It is a non-profit and non-government organization with a mandate to promote the production and trading of agricultural and horticultural seed. Funded by FAO and the Danish International Development Agency, APSA’s mandate includes collaboration between the public and private sectors of the region, providing advisory services to governments, compiling and dissemination of seed information on technical, regulatory and market issues. APSA also works closely with regional and international organizations having similar objectives and assists in training of personnel involved in the seed industry. Through such efforts, the Asian seed sector will reap the benefits of international co-operation, in achieving the goals of food sufficiency and food security. 5. PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES: EROSION AND STRATEGIES FOR CONSERVATION
Genetic Conservation and the Convention on Biological Diversity
Geographical regions faced with increasing urbanization, water resource pressures, industrialization and many socio-economic issues has affected the pristine environments of many countries in the region. In addition to environmental degradation, many plant and animal species have become locally extinct. Whilst some are irreparable genetic losses, there is hope for the recovery of many. Human settlement activities such as conversion of forest land into agricultural enterprises, improper soil and water management and over-grazing of semi-arid areas have eroded the natural resource base across Asia, and many Pacific islands. Genetic erosion has also been caused by replacing landraces in traditional areas with modern varieties in new agricultural schemes, genetic pollution through out-crossing with indigenous strains and loss of valuable gene pools from fragile environments where highly adaptable landraces were grown earlier. The new programme for collection, ex situ and in situ conservation and judicious exploitation of genetic resources of cultivated crops, medicinal plants and forage species and the protection of the soil microflora are being initiated under various conservation strategies. The tropical rainforest that dominates the natural vegetation of the sub-continent, remote areas of the Himalayan region, and the mountainous regions of the Chinese mainland are perhaps the last frontiers for exploitation of the genetic potential of cultivated and wild plant species from which future crops could be developed. In China, where soybean was domesticated, there are hundreds of indigenous landraces still being cultivated in remote areas. In situ conservation in such areas of biodiversity is the insurance for future food production. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is primarily concerned with the prevention of genetic erosion and loss of species on a global scale, especially from the tropical belt. It is providing a means towards the judicious utilization of genetic resources since conservation, ownership, and utilization are closely inter-related and linked. It is also the global forum in which the trade in genetic resources and related technologies is being debated. Certain implications arising from the CBD merit mention as far as they directly or indirectly affect seed trade. Since the CBD in principle supports Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), it has some positive benefits to the seed trade. However, it brings forth the question of regulation and custodianship of genetic resources of both in situ and ex situ collections. Repercussions and attendant legislation that result from these deliberations may influence future seed trade issues and the ‘trade’ of genetic material in general. Fortunately, international organizations such as the FAO and the CGIAR system hold in trust for the world community the priceless collections of germplasm, collected over many years before the CBD was adopted. The CBD is deliberating whether even such germplasm exchange should have national control. How these changes will affect future seed programmes remains to be seen. 5.2 Plant Breeders’ Rights
Currently, Japan is the only member of UPOV in Asia. Australia and New Zealand are also members. Countries such as the Philippines, India and Pakistan are in the process of debating PBR legislation, whilst China, Indonesia and Malaysia have initiated legislation drafting procedures to become members of UPOV. Other countries, such as Taiwan and Thailand, have national laws for PBR.
The pending introduction of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations is providing a focus for debate on PBR in the Asia-Pacific region. 5.3 Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources
National seed programmes set-up to multiply genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties for farmers’ use are reducing plant genetic resource variability characteristic of traditional farming systems. On the other hand, it is also true that the conservation of germplasm by itself is of no value if it is not used to develop new products and varieties that will increase the yield of the crop to achieve food security. Strategies that relate to the conservation of plant genetic resources should be encouraged by governments. As elaborated in the FAO Global Plan of Action (FAO, 1996b), the activities should focus on: in situ conservation and development, which include surveying and inventorying plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, supporting on-farm management and improvement of plant genetic resources, assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore agricultural systems, and promoting in situ conservation of wild crop relatives and wild plants for food production; ex situ conservation including sustaining existing ex situ collections; the use of plant genetic resources entailing the promotion of sustainable agriculture and the development of new markets for local varieties and diversity-rich products; and the promotion of networks for plant genetic resources, the development of early warning systems to monitor potential loss of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, the expansion and improvement of education and training, and the promotion of public awareness of the value of plant genetic resources.
(ii) (iii) (iv)
CONSTRAINTS ON SEED SUPPLY SYSTEMS AND SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE THE SEED SECTOR
Many different factors have been mentioned in this document that impede and constrain the development of the seed sector in Asia and the Pacific. These factors, which are often country specific, are all inter-related and therefore demand attention if the production of good quality seed and its utilization is to be achieved. The following outlines some of the constraints to the region’s seed supply systems. Each issue is accompanied by possible strategic suggestions for improvement, which could serve as a basis for discussion among policy-makers in the region. 6.1 Constraints to Varietal Development
Varietal development is the foundation of any seed supply programme. As elaborated in this document, constraints to varietal development in the Asian region can be summarized as follows: (i) (ii) There is a shortage of varieties that are adapted to marginal land areas and low input agricultural systems; There is an imbalance in varietal development. Plant breeding and varietal development programmes in many Asian countries are limited to a few crops, principally rice and
(iii) (iv) (v)
maize. Despite their importance in the diet of the population, grain legumes, roots and tubers, vegetables, and forage crops receive less attention compared to cereals; Variety evaluation procedures commonly used in many countries in the region often limit the release of superior varieties; There is a lack of resources for variety development research; There is a lack of personnel trained in plant breeding; and (vi) In most countries, there is a lack of strategies to maintain varieties after they are released.
The public sector in the Asia-Pacific region has been extensively involved in varietal development, which has required substantial resources from national budgets. Most governments have recognized that private sector involvement in variety development is critical if the increasing demands for adapted improved varieties in the region are to be met. To enhance coordination, the role of each sector involved in variety development should be defined. It seems appropriate that the public sector focus on the development of varieties that are considered economically unviable by the private sector, but which are important to the majority of small farmers. The involvement of the private sector in variety development is still weak, but is improving in many countries. In an effort to increase private sector activities, it might be essential to: (i) Develop legislation encouraging private seed sector involvement in plant breeding and seed production. This should include the revision of legislation related to variety release and notification, quality control and seed certification, and the establishment of Plant Breeders’ Rights; (ii) Provide private seed producers with access to the lines and varieties developed by the NARS, including access to breeder and/or foundation seed; (iii) Facilitate the importation of germplasm and certified seed when needed; and (iv) Improve seed marketing by developing varieties that fit farmers’ needs and strengthen extension services. This task requires a good varietal development programme, farmer participation throughout the development process, intensive involvement of the national extension service and effective seed multiplication and distribution systems. 6.2 Low Adoption Rates of Improved Varieties
New varieties must be tested, released, multiplied, processed, stored and distributed. These steps require substantial resources that can be justified only if the seeds are of adapted varieties which are adopted by farmers. To date, the adoption rate of most improved varieties produced in the region has been low, thus slowing the development process of the seed sector. The low adoption rate of new varieties in Asia has been caused by: (i) Lack of breeding objectives corresponding to the needs of farmers. The major breeding strategies have in the past concentrated on increasing yield potential through fertilization, crop protection, and the development of resistance characteristics. Variety adaptation to the low-input cropping systems of the farmers, their storage methods, and the biotic and abiotic stresses are seldom addressed. Furthermore, farmers often have specific culinary, organoleptic, and other culturally specific requirements that have rarely been taken into consideration by breeders; Low adaptation of the new varieties to most farmers’ conditions. The selection process for new varieties is carried out under high input conditions and the varieties are, in many
cases, outperformed by the traditional varieties under low-input management systems common to most farmers; and Lack of on-farm variety testing for farmer evaluation.
The formal seed supply systems in Asia-Pacific have a mutually dependent relationship with the research system in the variety development phase. However, until varieties corresponding to farmers’ needs are produced and on-farm production of good quality seed and planting materials is strengthened, the research system will continue to have little relevance to the informal seed supply system in the region. Plant breeding efforts should be integrated into farming communities that possess the knowledge and genetic material in landraces that have been used and preserved for generations. In addition, farmers’ specific requirements and their reactions to newly released varieties should be integrated with the on-going selection process if on-farm testing is part of the programme. 6.3 Knowledge about the Informal Seed Supply Systems
There is relatively little known about the informal on-farm seed production system throughout the region. Only recently has the informal seed system been recognized as the major system for seed supply. In fact, it is responsible for providing more than 90% of the seed produced in most countries of the region. This important seed sector cannot be improved without understanding men and women farmers’ traditional knowledge about on-farm seed production and distribution. An understanding of traditional seed production systems must be established. This can be accomplished through participatory surveys and in-depth analysis of the present informal seed supply system, including assessment of: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) (viii) (ix) (x) current activities in the sector; participatory approaches used in variety development; sources of traditional and/or improved varieties; seed production problems; status of seed availability; seed processing situation; seed storage methods and problems; seed marketing strategies; the role and participation of research and extension services; and the impact of current agricultural and seed policies on the informal seed supply systems.
There are also suggestions that social differentiation within communities and the nature of patronclient relations influence the social equity of the system. An evaluation of socio-cultural and socio-economic factors affecting the informal seed supply system is also needed to help design and implement more effective seed programmes. 6.4 Promoting the Informal Seed Supply System.
Informal seed supply systems have been left out of government or donor efforts geared to improve the seed sector in the region. Strengthening these important seed supply systems could make a substantial contribution to the overall development of the seed sector. Governments should
recognize the informal seed sector and be committed to strengthening its capabilities. Approaches that would stimulate the growth of the informal seed sector include: (i) Developing breeding strategies in both national and international programmes that target varieties that are tolerant to the prevailing biotic and abiotic stresses found under low input farming conditions and acceptable to farmers in other qualitative characteristics; Focussing on crops that are suitable for on-farm improved seed production systems; Guaranteeing farmers access to breeder and foundation seeds of varieties that are suitable and have been demonstrated to be acceptable through on-farm testing; Providing extension services to farmers in the use of improved varieties and seed testing; and Training farmers to improve skills in seed production, processing, conservation and distribution. Development of Seed Supply Systems which are Gender Inclusive
(ii) (iii) (iv) (v) 6.5
Despite the fact that women represent a significant proportion of farmers in most Asia-Pacific countries, generally play an important role in the informal seed supply sector and play a key role in achieving food security, women are seldom considered when designing national agricultural and seed policies. Only a few countries in the region have initiated significant nation-wide policies and programmes that specifically target rural women farmers. If seed production is to be increased and sustained and seed quality improved in the region, the following factors should be considered: (i) (ii) (iii) 6.6 the existence of separate categories of seed producers which face different gender-specific constraints and play varying roles in the seed production system should be acknowledged; appropriate strategies aimed at strengthening the role of women farmers and seed producers should be designed and implemented; and national seed policies need to be re-examined for their adequacy in addressing the needs of various categories of seed producers. Seed Sector Collaboration within and between Countries
Communication among institutions involved in seed sector development within and between countries of a region is crucial for the development of seed industries. There is a strong need for the transfer of information and the sharing of lessons learned between institutions involved in the seed sector. For example, the average yield losses from own-saved seed of self-pollinated crops including wheat and rice has been estimated to be only 1.6% per cropping season in some Asian countries, such as Nepal and India (Heisey and Brennan, 1991). Collaboration could facilitate the adoption of these successful traditional seed technologies in places with similar climatic conditions and cultural backgrounds. Seed security within a national system is dependent on seed supply sectors at the community, district, country, and regional levels. Linkages among countries in the region are essential to derive mutual benefits and assistance. Collaboration can be achieved through national and international networking. Activities such as conferences, workshops, and seminars can serve to create linkages within and among countries of the region. Such meetings can facilitate the establishment of information networks and future research and training collaboration. Furthermore, these forums can provide a venue for formulating general
policies relating to the seed sector in all participating countries. It should be noted that some countryspecific information has already been compiled in the FAO Seed Review and other information sources, which can assist in the development of regional seed networks. 6.7 Status of Rural Infrastructure
Rural road networks are critical to the success of the seed supply system. In Asia-Pacific, roads are often poor, presenting difficulties in transporting seed from processing plants to farmers. Therefore, the absence of good rural roads is an obstacle to establishing effective formal seed supply systems. Even within the informal seed systems, which are better suited for the prevailing conditions, it is also true that poor rural roads make it difficult for farmers to market their produce. Several countries now have national seed programmes equipped with seed testing laboratories, seed certification services and seed legislation. It is, however, noted that all components of a sound programme may be lacking in expertise, facilities and infrastructure. In the tropics, where ambient temperatures and relative humidity are high for most of the year, seed viability, storage life and germinability to attain satisfactory crop densities depend on good seed quality. External factors that influence seed quality are seed maturity, harvesting and threshing techniques and post-harvest management before seeds reach the farmers. Weather conditions at harvest time often become a problem, especially in legumes and oil seeds. In most of these crops, seed retention at harvest time is poor and mature seed may be lost. 6.8 Seed Distribution and Marketing
Despite substantial efforts by NGOs to supply seeds to farmers in remote areas, inadequate infrastructure in most of the countries in Asia-Pacific has also been a major obstacle to the distribution of seeds. Although farmers and local distributors participating in seed distribution have been observed to improve the availability of seeds to farmers, in the majority of countries where farmers are involved in seed multiplication they serve as contract farmers rather than as integrated seed producers and sellers. Decentralized strategies should be developed for seed multiplication and storage. While easy control and low cost of production have been the major advantages of centralized seed multiplication systems in Asia, major costs are incurred in seed handling and transport. It appears that a decentralized strategy for seed multiplication would reduce these costs by establishing seed outlets and markets in proximity to farming communities. Decentralized seed production systems can also play a major role in producing seeds of improved varieties, which require less intensive management. 6.9 Strategic Seed Security Stocks
In most Asia-Pacific countries, there are no strategic seed reserves for use in emergencies. While in some countries storage of seed reserves is undertaken centrally by parastatal seed agencies, this is only done for maize, rice and sorghum, which provide a small percentage of the total seed requirements of farmers. Cost-effective infrastructure for the storage of seed security stocks should be explored at the regional, national and local levels. This can prevent the disruption of agricultural production and loss of local genetic material due to natural and man-made calamities. 6.10 Strengthening Extension Services
Extension services are relatively ineffective in many Asia-Pacific countries due to constraints outside the agricultural extension systems. Constraints include insufficient financial resources, poor organizational structure, poor transportation, and inadequate incentives to motivate extension agents. Inadequate extension services are one of the main reasons for the low adoption rates of improved varieties. To strengthen the extension services in most Asian countries, it is important to: (i) organize producer groups as recipients of public and private sector extension efforts to help in enhancing the efficient transfer of new technology; (ii) encourage extension agents who play an important role in technology dissemination to also be involved in technology generation; stimulate leadership, support and initiative from NARS that will serve as the forum where all sub-national units can share their experiences and future strategies; (iv) revise policies that restrict private sector marketing of key agricultural supplies and products; and promote success stories on seed supply systems such that decision makers recognize the importance of seed security for food security. Training of Technical Staff
Technical staff involved in seed production, testing, processing and storage often lack adequate training due to lack of resources and funds, suitable facilities and institutions, and lack of appropriate training materials. Furthermore, training of seed production technicians in most Asian countries has often been done in developed countries. When they return to their own countries, these technicians are unable to apply the knowledge they acquired due to a lack of technological development, infrastructure and appropriate equipment. Well-planned and effectively executed training programmes can improve the skills and competence of technicians in different aspects of seed technology. Trained staff can then act as a vehicle for the transfer of technologies to local farmers. It is, therefore, necessary to: (i) develop graduate and postgraduate degree course programmes in seed science and technology in collaboration with local and regional universities; (ii) develop and promote cost-effective local, national and regional training programmes; (iii) provide fellowships for short and long-term training in developed countries in line with local needs and existing infrastructures; (iv) seek international collaboration for larger-scale training and development of training modules; (v) provide domestic funds where available and seek complementary international financial support; and (vi) develop in-service training courses on seed technology. 6.12 Upgrading the Informal Seed Sector
The small farmer in Asia is heavily dependent on locally available seed, whatever the quality, because of easy access, timely availability and low cost. The poorest of the poor seldom buy their seed, but retain seed from the previous harvest. If crop failure occurs the farmer will borrow,
based on traditional arrangements, in order to plant his or her crop. In many areas, however, improved varieties are also being used under the same lateral spread system. Other innovative methods used by extension advisors have been the participatory approach of organizing groups of farmers to collectively share seed of promising varieties. NGOs have also devised a revolving fund concept, where funds are provided to local banks that offer supervised credit to groups of farmers at very low interest that covers only debt servicing costs. From these loans, farmers are able to purchase quality seed and other inputs. The capital is returned in installments (usually 4 growing seasons or 2 years). Since individual credit is difficult to recover, the scheme has been extremely successful in some countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Where individual credit can be easily supervised, even the government rural (Gramiya) banks of Bangladesh offer such credit to small farmers and seed producers. Once the capital is recovered and the farmers are able to pay for themselves, the NGO moves to other groups. Until seed needs replacement, it is re-used for a few seasons. For example, although replacement rates are only around 10%, Sri Lanka has 98% coverage of new improved rice varieties using a combination of seed exchange and trading methods through the informal seed sector. In the same manner, groups of farmers at village and area-level could be given assistance to produce seed and operate as commercial enterprises. The success of these programmes depend to a large measure on the acceptance and suitability of a particular variety which is developed by the research system, having initially considered the specific requirements of a given area. Many other innovations can be introduced into the informal seed sector that can increase production and productivity. Farmers could elect their own seed producer on the recommendation of a seed or extension specialist. Such seed farmers could be provided with necessary training through one growing season to ensure good quality of the seed produced. Storage structures could also be provided to such seedsmen on easy repayment terms. In this manner, better germplasm could be introduced to high potential areas where soils and irrigation facilities could boost yields.
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