Draft Seed Regulation 2023 proposes a new provision for registering widely cultivated crop varieties to resolve the contention of Schedule D.
Photo 1: Dr. Prakash Acharya, SQCC sharing the daft seed regulation 2023 for discussion

LI-BIRD and the Seed Quality Control Center (SQCC) jointly organized a consultation workshop on the draft Seed Regulation 2023 on July 15th July 2023 at Dhulikhel, Kavrepalanchowk. The main objective of the workshop was to gather feedback and inputs on the draft seed regulation from associated agencies and stakeholders. Mr. Benu Prasad Prasai, the Chief of SQCC, chaired the workshop, and Dr. Govinda Prasad Sharma, the secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), graced the event as the chief guest. The workshop was concluded with the active participation of Joint Secretaries, Division/Program Chiefs from MoAD, the Director of Crop and Horticulture Development from NARC, the Director General of the Department of Agriculture (DoA), Senior Officials and Scientists from MoALD and NARC along with. The participants also included representatives from Seed Entrepreneur Association Nepal (SEAN), OXFAM Nepal, and farmers representing Community Seed Bank Association, Nepal (CSBAN).

Mr. Bharat Bhandari, Executive Director of LI-BIRD delivered the welcome speech emphasizing the importance of consultative workshop on draft seed regulation in order to address contemporary issues, particularly of local and widely cultivated exotic crop varieties. He underlined the rationale for revising the seed regulation, considering the amended seed act, resolving ambiguities in the notification process of farmers’ varieties, and making the formal seed system more contextual. He highlighted LI-BIRD’s institutional priority and efforts to make the policy formulation process more farmer-friendly and participatory, especially in the agro-biodiversity sector. Mr. Bhandari appreciated the diverse participation of key stakeholders in the seed sector and expressed LI-BIRD’s commitment for further collaborations.

Photo 2: Mr. Bharat Bhandari, Executive Director of LI-BIRD delivering the welcome speech

Mr. Benu Prasain, Chief of SQCC shared the overall structure of the program and the framework for revising the seed regulation, emphasizing its relevance in accordance with the recently amended Seed Act in 2023. He proposed the possibility of categorizing crops based on national priorities to establish a distinct regulatory system and technical requirements. Participants responded positively to this concept and suggested that the SQCC team further discuss the idea with a close group of experts to develop a detailed plan and procedure.

Dr. Prakash Acharya, Senior Horticulture Officer of SQCC presented the draft seed regulation, highlighting key revised provisions and procedures. Notably, a new schedule called “Schedule E” was proposed to regulate existing widely adopted exotic crop varieties, specifically for horticultural crops such as fruits, ornamental and medicinal plants, and mushrooms. There was intense discussion on revisiting the existing system of crop variety notification. The workshop participants suggested proposing variety notification based on the importance of crop varieties in food security and national strategy. Experts appreciated the new provision and recommended that the SQCC team develop a mechanism to ease the variety notification system in Nepal. The inclusion of a separate provision for farmer’s varieties in Schedule D is also expected to reduce the misuse of notification and should ideally be reserved for farmer’s and local crop varieties. Mr. Acharya further highlighted that the revised regulation now recognizes individual farmers and farmer’s communities/organizations as Breeders who can legally register and manage their crop varieties. Additionally, the revised regulation introduced changes such as technical audits of regional seed labs and a reduced timeframe for varietal performance evaluation for Schedule C crops.

Mr. Niranjan Pudasaini, Senior Programme Officer of LI-BIRD shared organizational experiences and learnings on farmer’s variety registration under Schedule D of the existing seed regulation. He emphasized the importance of defining landrace, local variety, and farmer’s variety to address ownership issues in the future. Mr. Pudasaini also suggested that SQCC should have a mechanism to control duplication in the registration of landrace and local varieties. Issues related to quality assurance and certification of Schedule D registered varieties were also discussed. Mr. Pradip Thapa, Scientist from the National Gene Bank added information about the draft source seed maintenance guideline. The forum suggested organizing a separate expert’s group meeting to define controversial key terminologies, mechanisms to check duplication, ownership issues, and quality assurance mechanisms for Schedule D varieties as soon as possible.

During the workshop, Mr. Tika Ram Thapa from MoLMAC, Sudurpaschim, shared quick updates on the provincial Seed Act of Sudurpaschim. The forum suggested revising the provincial seed board’s composition and aligning it with the federal seed act, 1988 (Second amendment, 2023). He acknowledged LI-BIRD’s support to the Sudurpaschim provincial government on agro-biodiversity-related policies and plan formulation.

Photo 3: Group photo of the workshop participants

Overall, the workshop was fruitful on orienting key federal-level stakeholders on the draft seed regulation 2023 and developed a common consensus on major modifications. Dr. Govinda Prasad Sharma, the chief guest of the event, admired the diverse participation on the process and congratulated SQCC for drafting the revised seed regulation. He expressed gratitude towards the expert group, NGOs, and private sectors for their contributions and suggested organizing a close group expert’s meeting to resolve raised issues in collaboration with relevant stakeholders at the earliest opportunity. In his closing remarks, the chairperson of the event, Mr. Benu Prasai, thanked all the participants for their vibrant participation and constructive feedbacks on the draft seed regulation. He acknowledged LI-BIRD and the concerned funding agencies for their support and contributions.

Reviewed by: Santosh Shrestha, LI-BIRD and Lok Prasad Poudel, OXFAM Nepal.

The workshop was co-contributed by Sowing Diversity=Harvesting Security (SD=HS) and Climate Resilient Agriculture II (CRA II) projects