Ten seed companies have been licensed and entered into agreements with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) to multiply foundation seed developed through research, in a bid to ensure the availability of quality planting seed, particularly for the second planting season of 2024.
The agreement outlines that certain seed companies will hold exclusive rights to produce specific seed varieties, with others multiplying various varieties under different windows. The selected crop varieties for multiplication encompass cereals such as maize and sorghum, as well as legumes like beans, soybeans, and groundnuts.
Dr. Sadiq Kassim, NARO’s deputy director in charge of technology promotion, emphasized that licensing these companies aims to ensure an adequate supply of seed while minimizing instances of seed adulteration. He highlighted the importance of traceability in curbing the spread of counterfeit seed, particularly for companies operating under exclusive licenses.
According to Kassim, the foundation seed allocated for multiplication should be ready for planting in the upcoming second season of 2024, known as season B. Seed companies seeking to multiply foundation seed are required to possess appropriate infrastructure for seed production, processing, and packaging, along with investments in post-harvest handling facilities and agronomic expertise.
While most qualifying seed companies are members of the Uganda Seed Traders Association (USTA), Kassim noted that non-members meeting the necessary requirements are also considered. The signing ceremony, held at the NARO secretariat in Entebbe, aims to prevent a recurrence of seed scarcity experienced during the second planting season of 2023.
During that period, a shortage of seed led to significant price hikes, with the cost of hybrid maize seed, for example, surging from sh5000 to between sh12,000 to sh15,000. Factors contributing to the scarcity included delays in the release of foundation seed by NARO and adverse weather conditions affecting harvest and seed processing.