Remarks by USAID Director Sheryl Stumbras During the Southern Africa Development Community Trade Hub Seed Export Commissioning

Remarks by USAID Director Sheryl Stumbras
Southern Africa Development Community Trade Hub Seed Export Commissioning
Seed Co Zambia Limited, Lusaka, Zambia
September 9, 2019

 (as prepared for delivery)

Minister of Agriculture Honorable Zondani Katambo
Seed Control and Certification Institute  Director Mable Simwanza
SADC FANR Director Domingos Gove
Seed Co Limited Managing Director Grace Bwanali
Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project Chief of Party Itai Makanda
Friends in the media
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning, I am honored to be here with you today, and bring you greetings from the United States Ambassador to Zambia, Daniel L. Foote.

Nine months ago, we launched the first-of-its-kind regional seed-trade pilot using the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Harmonised Seed Regulatory Systems (HSRS).

Today, through the combined work of the United States government, through the USAID Southern Africa Seed Trade Project, SADC, and Seed Co. Zambia Limited, we celebrate the first-ever export of hybrid seed from one SADC country to another, with the commissioning of hybrid maize seed from Zambia to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This may not seem significant for people outside the agricultural sector, but I assure you, it has tremendous implications.  First, the ability to test and accredit all seed varieties is incredibly important for quality assurance.

Second, the ability to produce and export improved, more resilient seeds across borders not only promotes economic growth but also gives farmers access to higher-quality seed varieties at more affordable prices.

For these farmers, better seed varieties mean improved crop yields, job opportunities, and standards of living. Finally, increasing the availability of improved seed provides a layer of protection against famine and food insecurity, and improves nutrition for millions of people.

The SADC Harmonised Seed Regulatory Systems is a policy, jointly conceived by SADC Member States, intended to break down barriers to trade for the easier flow of improved seed varieties (as a commodity) across borders.

This pilot has flexed and tested the HSRS, and today’s maiden export of hybrid maize seed is proof that it works.

We are here because our private sector partner, Seed Co., has successfully used the SADC Seed Certification and Quality Assurance guidelines to plant and harvest three hybrid maize seed varieties – over 200 metric tons in total – for sale and shipment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By utilizing the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory Systems and the SADC seed label, Seed Co. can guarantee quality while more easily and efficiently trading across international borders.

As I look out at our SADC partners, leading private sector seed companies, national seed authorities, and national plant protection organizations from Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe, I am humbled by what we’ve been able to accomplish together.

On behalf of the U.S. government, I am here to reinforce our commitment to economic growth in SADC. Through the Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security response works hand-in-hand with regional organizations and partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors. This initiative strives to increase agriculture-led growth, expand markets and trade, and increase the economic resilience of vulnerable communities.

This is a turning point and a moment in time we should mark with significance between the Southern African Development Community and the United States. As the doors of seed trade open, there is great potential for economic development and – more importantly – food security and resilience.

We commend the Government of the Republic of Zambia for its leadership role, and for being the first to export an improved seed variety bearing the SADC seed label across its border.

USAID is of the view that being able to move seed easily across borders, negotiate cross-boundary treaties and resources, and share best practices from one country to the next, will create the necessary environment for sustainable growth.

We would like to also commend our USAID colleagues – especially Senior Agriculture Advisor Dr. Takele Tassew and the entire Feed the Future Southern Africa Seed Trade Project – for their role in accomplishing this feat.

The United States has a long-standing and critical partnership with the SADC region, whose Secretariat’s leadership and vision played a leading role in conceptualizing the Seed Trade Project.

Now in year four of a five-year regional initiative, the Seed Trade Project aims to increase the availability of high-quality seed of improved varieties to farmers across the region, and strengthen food security and nutrition through improved crop yield while increasing farmer income.

What we are seeing today is the reality of regional integration, which I highly commend as a perfect example for all regional efforts, not only for food security, but also for other regional economic plans.

We have come this far through concerted efforts, and through the same, we have the ability to replicate this and contribute towards a goal of a more integrated region for improved quality of life for those living in the SADC region.

Without doubt, few, if any, of today’s economic challenges can be understood or solved without working through a regional context. This is why USAID continues to work closely with the SADC Secretariat, the SADC Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate (FANR), and other partners to contribute towards the eradication of hunger.

In closing, we again congratulate SADC and our partners in the private and public sectors for recognizing the pivotal role seed varieties, market integration and value chain efficiencies play in transforming the agricultural sector.

We are hopeful that the commissioning of this, the inaugural hybrid maize seed export/import between Zambia and DRC, will elicit interest and participation of more private seed companies in the SADC region, not only in maize but also in other seeds, and contribute to food security.

Thank you and we look forward to our ongoing partnership and future collaboration.