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Zambia: Relief seed trade study
8 September 2006
Mwalimu Simfukwe


Executive summary

The Zambia Relief Seed Trade study was part of a 4-country study (Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia) commissioned by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to determine the importance and share of relief seed in the overall national and regional seed trade and assess opportunities for improving the contributions of relief seed programmes to commercial seed market development. Seed market development is part of the broader regional objective of improving agricultural inputs and outputs markets as a trigger for increased agricultural production and growth in the region.

The motivation for the study was that governments need to recognize the significance of relief seed in the national and regional markets and hence the need for a clear policy on relief seed. The main thesis of the study was that relief seed has become a major component of many national and regional seed markets - especially for crops other than maize and there is, thus, need for governments to make more effective use of the huge investment in relief seed programmes. There is, also, need for establishing minimum standards for the purchase of seed by seed companies (and NGOs/relief agencies) as a way of ensuring the quality and health of seed distributed. The volume and quantity of relief seed trade is also believed to affecting the structure and conduct of seed markets. The study was aimed at presenting options for a higher payoff for this investment.

The specific quest was 4-fold:

  1. Determining the size and share of relief seed trade, for all major crops, as a proportion of total seed trade;
  2. Determining how the supply and distribution of relief seed is affecting the structure and performance (or evolution) of domestic seed markets
  3. Understanding the structure and performance of regional seed trade as a result of greater use of relief seed
  4. Identifying opportunities for improving the development impacts of relief seed trade
For purposes of the study, relief seed was defined as all seed distributed through non-commercial channels - including government and NGO food security and farmer support programmes. Relief seed in this study, thus, refers to seed distributed outside the commercial wholesale and retail channels, even beyond periods of crisis.

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