Experts cite need to improve PH seed system

Singapore-based CropLife Asia, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting plant science, sees strong seed systems as key to attaining food security.

"The baseline of farming is seeds," said Siang Hee Tan, CropLife Asia executive director, at an online forum organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

The online forum was held via SEARCA Online Virtual Learning and Engagement or SOLVE platform.

According SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio, this statement from Tan sums up why SEARCA conducted the webinar for farmers and seed producers in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia.

"I myself believe that good farming business starts with the right seeds," Gregorio said.

Ruel Gesmundo, National Seed Quality Control Services (NSQCS) chief of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BAI), noted that in agricultural efficiency, seeds are vital inputs.

"Assuring seed quality will help boost farmer productivity," Gesmundo said in emphasizing the value of seed quality assurance.

He explained that seed quality control plays a vital role in the seed system to ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and its accessibility to farmers.

"Quality control mechanism through seed certification ensures that high quality seeds and planting materials are available to the farming communities," Gesmundo added.

He cited the NSQCS as the seed certifying agency in the Philippines that implements quality control procedures in certifying both seed stock production of government seed farms and institutions, as well as private seed growers. It is also responsible for seed testing and issuance of results of laboratory analysis and tags.

"The goal of any seed program is for farmers to have access to high-quality seeds, and to support the crops sector, the government provides high-quality seeds and planting materials," he said.

Gesmundo added that when using accredited and registered varieties in the Philippines, farmers are assured of quality seeds and the identity and source of their crop varieties of choice.

Affirming that seed is the starting point of any food production, Mary Ann Sayoc, public affairs Lead of East-West Seed International, said to push for a healthy seed sector is to have an enabling environment that promotes science-based regulations and multi-stakeholder engagements.

But Tan noted that outdated seed policies and regulations are some of the issues impacting the growth of the industry.

"There is also lack of harmonized and transparent seed movement across borders, and use of illegal seed practices," he said.

As such, Tan said collective work between associations to help build a resilient seed industry is important, as well as good leadership of governments for farmers to have access to certified seeds and improve their livelihoods.

He said the establishment of networks, for example across Asean+3, helps in strengthening the seed sector.

Asean+3 consist of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states and China, Japan and the South Korea.

With the rapidly changing environment, Tan said it is important to work with regulators to help bring seeds to farmers so they can cope with the demand on the ground.

"At CropLife Asia, we work with different associations in the region to help upgrade seed systems to expedite moving the correct seed traits and technology into the hands of farmers," he said.