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COVID-19 and its impact on seed sector in Nepal

The outbreak of COVID-19 as a global pandemic has brought ineluctable impact on all sphere of life from downturn of global economy to abrupt effect on public health. Nepal, an impecunious country whose major economy relies on agriculture production has been hard hit by this pandemic. Due to the strict lockdown enforced by the government of Nepal, seed market couldn’t function steadily and effectively as a result of which has brought inevitable effect on production, certification, distribution and cost of seed that contributes a crucial role in developing resilient agriculture sector and food system. Seed are basic central input to the crop production, human nutrition and food security that strengthen the agriculture sector and prop the livelihood of farmer and other action in the food value chain. Seed industry is truly globalized: before it reaches to the farmer it crossed many countries for multiplication, production, processing and packaging. High quality seed are the fundamental input that alone contributes 15-20% enhancement in the output level. But the condition of the lockdown and havoc of pandemic has worsen the situation of the country.

Before the pandemic had hit the country there were also multihued constraint on the seed sector and agriculture production which include lack of varietal development, unavailability of the suitable varieties, issue to extension of the various agricultural technology, in appropriate implementation of government plans and policies. After the pandemic the problem is exaggerate more. Unavailability of seed has delayed in the sowing and plantation of the seasonal crop and vegetables. The price is hiking for the stock seed as a result of which has reduced the purchasing capacity of the farmer for production. The tight safety measure at boarder site has affected timing and costing of the seed. Due to the reduced number of commercial flights, fewer personnel available for production, transportation and documentation process and a contraction in the market for plants and seeds is creating problems in term of production of seed for international trade as well as access of quality seed at domestic market and agriculture production. Poor enforcement of plans, strategies by the government for the development of community seed bank, gene bank has also hinder the seed sector of the country. There is no any stock seed available in the country due to the lack of logistic support and technical manpower in NARC due to which there lacks consistency in the production of Breeder and foundation seed. Addition to this, Nepal’s huge dependence on hybrid seeds has already created great effect on preservation of germplasm of indigenous variety and landraces. Some of the allocated budget on the agriculture sector has also been used for the Covid-19 rescue and control due to which local government are unable to provide subsidy, incentives to the farmers during this condition.

Proper plan and its implementation is very necessary to overcome any problems. The following solution can be put into action for the minimization of seed related issues:

Proper action plan and strategies should be made to strengthen fast tract variety development, release and registration to facilitate making accessible to wider range of new competent choice variety by reducing breeding cycle (through Marker assisted breeding, shuttle breeding) adopted in multiple domains and seasons.

Breeder should be encouraged and provided with well equipped resources, trainings and research station to produce quality seed.

Focusing for the concept of establishment of community seed bank, gene bank with adoption of “Seed Zoning Concept” for specific varieties.

Popularization of new varieties through extension and awareness campaigns targeting in the dissemination of good quality attributes of the new varieties.

Awareness to the seed users and farmers about the improved quality seed varieties with appropriate labeling, branding and awareness campaign in specific recommendation domain and production seasons.

Enhancement of the seed storage facilities through implication of various technologies.

Enforcement of proper plans to provide subsidies, incentives to the farmers as well as education to maintain quality and vigor of seed through local available resources.

Encouragement in the cultivation and preservation of local indigenous variety and landraces.

Digitalization on seed sector should be encouraged with excellent seed trading marketing channel.

In nutshell, the escalating spread of COVID-19 pandemic has alarming impact on the seed sector too from the production to processing in the country like ours. Among several problems, especially the economically challenged one is the availability of seed, such constraint can be minimized through the proper implementation of the above-mentioned strategies.

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Thursday, 20 January 2022

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