QUALITY SEED: FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN THE HAVOC OF COVID-19
Seeds are complex, living organisms that play a very important role in agriculture. Seed is a primary input in crop production and is a means for delivering agricultural innovations to farmers to realize the impacts of investments in agricultural research. Since seed is one of the main factors limiting crop production potential it should reach farmers in a good quality state.
Quality seed is defined as varietally pure with a high germination percentage, free from disease and disease organisms, and with a proper moisture content and weight. Quality seed insures good germination, rapid emergence, and vigorous growth. There is high potential that a quality seed can assure good crop productivity and food security. Every farmer tends to access and grow healthy seeds that are genetically pure, with high seed vigor and good germination rate. The timely availability of quality seeds at a reasonable price ensures good yield and thus a good economic return to farmers. Certification process is mandatory for production and marketing of quality seed which plays an important role in increasing food productivity.
Here are some of the benefits we can expect from using high quality seeds:
- Because they’re the best of the bunch, more seeds will emerge, therefore less seed is needed, which saves our money.
- Seedlings from high quality seeds will be strong and produce uniform plants.
- Plants will grow faster shortening the time from planting to harvesting.
- Seeds of higher quality are more resistant to disease and distress.
- Crops will produce a more uniform and robust end product that will demand a higher price.
- Larger seeds have more vigour. More vigour means quicker emergence. Quicker emergence means better disease control.
Good seeds and young plants contribute in optimum utilization of resources used, promotes job opportunities, leads to safer and healthier food and deals with the ongoing changes in the climate. These aspects promote a good crop stand (both in protected and natural environment)
Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency
Food security is the product of food availability, food access, stability of supplies and biological utilization. Food security means being able to adequate and sufficient food, regardless of where it comes from.Food security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
According to FAO, “The concept of food self-sufficiency is generally taken to mean the extent to which a country can satisfy its food needs from its own domestic production”. This most basic definition can apply at the level of individuals, countries, or regions. In the context of debates on trade and food security, self-sufficiency typically refers to countries that seek to produce all or most of their own food for domestic consumption. Food self-sufficiency focus on country’s domestic food production capacity rather than where specific foods are grown.
At one extreme, food self-sufficiency can be defined as a country closing its borders to all food trade – both imports and exports – and concentrating its resources on its agriculture sector so as to be able to produce all of its food requirements domestically. In other words, this definition refers to a state practicing complete autarky in its food sector. Such an extreme policy stance does not apply in practice today, just as there no countries that practice completely free trade and rely on foreign markets for 100% of their food. All countries, even large food exporters that are fully self-sufficient, typically import at least some food.
Covid-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of your time and the greatest challenge we have faced since world war 2.The outbreak of the pandemic has been suspected throughout entire global society. Whole world has become the victim of this virus. Countries are racing to slow the spread of the virus by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sports events, concerts, and schools. The pandemic is moving like a wave, one that may yet crash on those least able to cope.
Food Insecurity during COVID-19 in Nepal
India is one of the biggest contributor of food goods in Nepal. The shortage in the supply of vegetables from India, rice exports were also halted from India, affecting food availability dimension of food security. During the on-going of lockdown, the harvesting of Wheat all over Nepal was only completed by 30-40% at around 13 April and at the report of beginning of May it was completed by 80-90%, but the main problem here came by the restriction on supply of those harvested wheat due to no transportation. 85 percent of traders reported that the supply of goods decreased, with 90 percent of traders reporting a decrease in transporting trucks and other vehicles. While maize sowing is going on in Nepal, reports of Fall Army Worm infestation in newly germinated maize crop in some of the districts, has created fear on farmers. Localized hailstorms and strong wind have affected winter crops, vegetables and fruits in some parts of Provinces-1, 2, Bagmati, Gandaki, Karnali and Sudurpaschim.
Seed Insecurity during COVID-19
With the inter-linkage of food security and seed security, the insecurities under food sector also includes 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 has caused loss of seeds but also the wastage of inputs. Vegetables are the greater contributor in economy of Nepal compared to cereal crops. As it can also be grown under small spaces within house compared to that of cereals; even in food grain dominated areas most of favorable vegetables can be grown as under various intercropping patterns. But limited availability of vegetables and low availability of vegetables seeds, have neither benefitted seed sector. The framework for 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.
Quality Seeds as a solution to Food Security and Food Self-sufficiency
With the observation of aforementioned qualities of quality seeds, we can come to certain understanding how much is quality of seeds important for better crop stand and high input efficiency. Producing quality seeds is an effective tool to address the issues of self-sufficiency, food security and economic development. For the assessment of quality seeds, main things that matter are purity, germination and moisture content of seed lot. For that, certified seeds are highly used, which have really purity. Certified seeds are of mainly four types: Nucleus seed, Breeder’s seed, Foundation Seed (I and II) and Certified Seed (I and II). If such seeds are available to the farmers, then it can be advantageous for them in many perspectives like uniform plant population and maturity.
Solutions for Seed Sector arise due to Corona
Production of quality seed and for making it reach it out to every farmers in every part of Nepal efficiently, it needs to be supported by many institutions and government too. As there are many projects 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, co-operation of such companies, formulations of even more policies, and even more innovations and investments is one of the most reliable part supporting for sustainable seed sector even after this pandemic.
Importance of quality seeds is being understood, and is also being seen as basic tool for a secure food supply because of this havoc going around in the world. Quality seeds ensures good crop stand because of its high genetic and physiological qualities. So, with the institutional and technological enhancements in seed sectors, quality seeds can be used as solution for food security with addition to food self-sufficiency too. Production of seeds by following proper seed cycle, unifying seed system with complete knowledge and technological training on post-harvest operations up to marketing, utilization of maximum seed policies, seed schemes national, international both needs to be done in order to be self-reliable, sustainable, standard in line with sustaining food security and enhancing productivity.