A seed is a material which is used for planting or regeneration purpose. However scientifically, Seed is a fertilized matured ovule together covered with seed coat is called seed or it is a propagating material i.e., part of agriculture, sericulture, silviculture, and horticultural plants used for sowing or planting purpose. Thus, the seed is the most vital and crucial input for crop production, one of the ways to increase productivity without adding appreciably to the extent of land now under cultivation by planting quality seeds. Seeds have always been the key ingredient in the establishment, expansion, diversification, and improvement of crop production.
Compared to the vegetative propagules used for some crops, seeds are smaller, hence very convenient to store and transport, hardier and longer-lived, easier to sow, relatively free of diseases, and a much smaller portion of the production is required for propagation. While seeds are marvelously adapted for the propagation of plants, they have another function or role which is even more pivotal in crop improvement. The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 since the first case being seen on 23 January 2020 in Nepal, which became even more severe with the increase in the number of cases, leading to the implementation of lockdown since 24th March 2020 to slow down the spread. Lockdown in Nepal came up with the restrictions in the movement of vehicles, neither within the districts nor outside any of the districts. The farm economy faced a severe hit when lockdown halted transportation, thereby stagnating the harvest. Even before this pandemic, Nepal had a poor situation in the agricultural sector. But because of the outbreak, growth in this sector seems to be lower than the fiscal year. Further, during the peak harvest, the produce could not reach markets, thus disrupting the supply chain. Also, the unavailability of migrant laborers, intercepting the harvest and post-harvest operations. The pandemic has given rise to several challenges in procurement operations as well. The agricultural sector is the highest employer in Nepal at 66% of the population, though this figure includes a very diverse array of quality of jobs that includes everything from subsistence to (small-scale) enterprise farming and wage-employment that is seasonal and part-time to permanent. COVID-19 is putting Nepal’s small-scale producers and landless farmers under strain. Among those various sectors even within agriculture, the seed sector has been affected excessively too. Mainly, private seed organizations are on halt because of the urge of lockdown
With the inter-linkage of food security and seed security, the insecurities under the food sector also include seed insecurity. As there are limitations with the availability of seeds and other inputs during jammed market everywhere over Nepal, the few seeds that are available with farmers were used as respective to growing seasons. But the consequences of unprecedented climatic hazards and insect-pest manifestation not only have caused the loss of seeds but also the wastage of inputs. Vegetables are a greater contributor to the economy of Nepal compared to cereal crops. As it can also be grown under small spaces within the house compared to that of cereals; even in food-grain-dominated areas, most favorable vegetables can be grown under various inter-cropping patterns. But limited availability of vegetables and low availability of vegetable seeds, have neither benefitted the seed sector. The framework for the seed supply chain in Nepal has completely broken off during this period. That’s why one of the popularly viewed solutions for solving food insecurity during this pandemic of COVID-19 is: Availability of Quality Seeds.
The followings are those problems we can see in the seed sectors during the havoc of Covid19 :
Because of the prevalence of corona all over the world, not leaving Nepal, has led to the closing up of every system. Neither governmental nor private sectors were on run during the complete lockdown. With minimal facilities of movement of food, the operations on the seed sector were almost equaled to null. As shown in figure no.1 of supply chain and numbers of key players mentioned above for seed production presents that producing seed and it’s accessibility to farmers in every nook of the country is not a one day job. Based on the life-cycle of each crop, the stage up to the production of seed within plants is a long-process; but in addition to that various post-harvest operations including storage takes multiple steps. Implications of no-transportation have resulted in the return of workers to their hometown, causing less number of workers ranging from field workers to technicians in seed production. This has undertaken almost no production of seeds from private sectors. Also, the import of seeds from international donors has not been possible due to restrictions on an international flight. And the options that we are left with, during such a scenario is the use of source seeds produced by farmers in neighborhoods without any authentic knowledge on seeds’ quality; as in the current situation, our country is not proficient enough to provide with adequate choices of preferred varieties, hybrid seeds to the diverse group of clients in different agro-ecological domains, socio-economic settings. Piling up of quality seeds by immature seed companies for immoral activities has also been seen to cause unregulated seed distribution without following the seed policy of Nepal, distorting the production ability of potential sectors, regions. Due to the lack of logistic support and technical manpower in NARC, there is no consistency in the production of Breeder Seeds. The obstruction of vehicles results in inadequate market support causing weak input relationships. And one of the main problems to be considered during this scarcity is a volatile market, where the price fluctuation was common during the beginning of COVID-19 cases in Nepal. The aforementioned cases are some of the direct and short-term problems caused due to this pandemic. But there is one, the major and long-run problem arose due to this pandemic. And it’s the problem of food insecurity and food in-self sufficiency. In Nepal, the vision of growth in the agricultural sector was supposed to be about 2%. But now, it seems to be hindered and fallen by even more range than the fiscal years’.
Solutions for Seed Sector arose Due to Corona
Production of quality seed and for making it reach it out to every farmer in every part of Nepal efficiently, it needs to be supported by many institutions and government too. As many projects are going on in Nepal for agriculture like Food Security and Agricultural Project Analysis Service (ESAP), so going on for “New Normal” can be even easier with collaboration with such projects. There are companies like National Seed Company Limited (NSCL), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), etc. Ministry of Agricultural Development has developed a National Seed Vision 2013-2025, the co-operation of such companies, formulations of even more policies, and even more innovations and investments is one of the most reliable parts supporting for sustainable seed sector even after this pandemic.
- Actions from Actors of the Seed system
As we already know, seed production goes through processes like breeding, testing, seed production, processing, sales, and extension services where various actors have their roles
– Variety development, maintenance, and breeder seed production and supply are mainly carried out by public research institutions.
– Foundation seed is produced and multiplied by both public research institutions and the private sector including Community Based Seed Producers (CBSP) groups in close supervision of NARC research centers and some NGOs (LI-BIRD, FORWARD).
– Commercial seeds (Certified, Truthful labeled, and Improved) are mainly multiplied and marketed by private seed companies, co-operatives, and CBSP groups.
– The marketing functions are the main domains of private seed dealers Agrovets and Seed traders.
– The public sector dominates in seed multiplication of cereal crops mainly by NSCL, whereas private seed companies play an important role in vegetable seed multiplication. During the pre-corona period, major issues identified in the seed sector are a low investment in plant breeding, poor seed processing, and quality management procedures, lack of promotion and advertising campaigns, and weak extension programs. So one of the best possible solutions for the seed sector post-corona can be enough subsidies, investments for research over plant breeding, seed production sectors, and seed trade, with more trained manpower recruitment for fieldwork to the lab as technicians, with supportable and trustable marketing teams. Small seed enterprises, CBSPs, and CSBs can work more vividly on decentralization of seed production and provisioning
- Following of National legislation on Seed Sector by Informal system
- Encouraging Farmers for Seed Replacement
- Digitalization on Seed Sector
- Launching of SeedNL in Nepal
- Increase in association with international companies
- Enhancing the Genetic Factors of Seeds through Breeding
- Providing Seeds on Kitbox as Relief Package
- Increased Seed Storing Facilities
- Introduction of Sanitary measures in Agriculture
11. Usage of the micro-climatic condition in integration with workshops training