Direct Seed Marketing Program in Ethiopia in 2013

Source: Flickr/ILRI (Stevie Mann)

Source: Flickr/ILRI (Stevie Mann)

An Operational Evaluation to Guide Seed-Sector Reform

In 2013 the Bureaus of Agriculture in the regional states of Amhara, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples of Ethiopia supported a program of direct marketing of certified seed by seed producers to farmers across 31 woredas (districts). This program stands in contrast to the dominant procedure for supplying such seed in which farmers register with local agricultural offices or extension agents to purchase seed for the coming cropping season and then receive seed either directly from these local offices or through local cooperatives.

Under the Direct Seed Marketing (DSM) program, seed enterprises, both public (parastatal seed enterprises) and private, were authorized to sell seed, primarily hybrid maize seed, directly to farmers in the selected woredas.

To generate evidence to guide future action by government on whether it should allow greater  interaction between seed producers and Ethiopian smallholder farmers, the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) requested that the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) evaluate the program. Many government officials in Ethiopia are hesitant to cede responsibility to traders for providing seed to farmers without a high level of oversight on the part of government. Does the evidence gathered justify this suspicion on the part of government officials?

The evaluation shows that competition between entrepreneurial seed producers to capture a substantial portion of the market of farmer-customers for their seed to enable their firms to remain in business will propel wider and more effective distribution of new and improved hybrid maize to more and more farmers. This increased engagement by private seed producers in the provision of improved seed to Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers is a useful and necessary element in the transformation of Ethiopia’s agricultural sector and will contribute to improved welfare for many farming households across the country. While Ethiopian seed producers will have to significantly increase the scope and quality of their marketing efforts to develop profitable and reliable direct commercial seed supply relationships with farmers, we find that the suspicion on the part of government of competitive market forces in the formal seed subsector in Ethiopia is not justified.

Read the IFPRI Discussion Paper, here.