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Minfal to launch Phase-II seed production plan shortly

FAISALABAD (September 24 2007): The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) would launch second phase of National Commercial Seed Production Programme in near future, which will be completed with the cost of Rs 6.4 million

According to official sources, the federal government has committed financial resources to the tune of Rs 836 million with a view to strengthening and improving the seed sector-related infrastructure and services and setting up 15 new seed testing laboratories all over the country.

The Central Seed Testing Laboratory, Islamabad, is being upgraded to achieve excellence and attain international accreditation. Provisions have been made for registration, certification and quality control of food plant nurseries and vegetable seed production.

A programme has been started to locally produce hybrid and other high-tech seeds of vegetable crops. Services of internationally renowned scientists have been hired to work on evolution of high-yielding, disease-resistant and temperature-tolerant wheat varieties.

A major initiative is to venture into the production and marketing of Bt cotton seed under secure bio-safety arrangements. To provide certified crop seeds to the growers from the public sector, the Seed Corporation in Punjab and Sindh and the agriculture departments in Balochistan and NWFP have been entrusted the task of seed production, processing and marketing. In the private sector, 640 registered seed companies, including four multi-national companies have been allowed certified seed production, processing, and marketing.

Sources said the seed is the basic and cheapest input and due to its genetic characteristic influences efficiency of other inputs in achieving better yields. The use of quality seed enables 20 to 25 percent improvements in crop yields. Seed has the potential to influence productivity both at commercial and subsistence farms.

The government policy places greater focus on ensuring increased supply of quality seed to the growers. The private sector is being encouraged to produce and market improved seeds of various crops. So far, 658 private seed companies have been granted permission to do seed business.

The present status of quality seed distribution of different crops is not satisfactory as the certified seed availability for wheat is 24 percent, paddy 30 percent, cotton 64 percent, maize 35 percent, oilseeds 12 percent, and pulses 1.3 percent. The major source of supplies for seeds for fodder, maize, oilseeds and vegetables are imports. The inadequate availability of improved seed highlights the challenges lying ahead.

Minfal has drafted bill on `Plant Breeder`s Rights`, which provides legal protection against commercial exploitation of varieties evolved by plant breeders, and encourages both public/private sectors to invest in agricultural research and marketing.

Sources admitted that Pakistan lacks a coherent Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) management system in relation to its trade with other countries. There are serious capacity constraints and a lack of coordination and effective interaction between the departments involved in inspection, testing and other related activities.

The absence of an SPS management system is resulting in rejection of exported consignments and export bans, costing the country huge losses in foreign exchange earnings. There is a strong and urgent need for developing an SPS management system. Thus, a project `special program for strengthening SPS facilities and quality inspection services - establishment of an Integrated Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (Naphis)` has been launched. It envisages a sound regulatory system to safeguard the health of animals and plants and ensure compliance of agricultural produce with international SPS standards.

Sources said in order to increase volume of agricultural production, the availability of quality seed of improved varieties is essential. Further, since improved seed is neutral to the size of the farm and therefore, its advantage is equally realised by farmers. The Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department regulates quality during the flow of seed from the breeder to the growers.

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