SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System & Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions

Seed is a fundamental input for crop production, improving agricultural productivity and ensuring food security. It can re-establish the livelihoods of farmers affected by disasters and return them to a life in dignity and financial stability. Access to high-quality, improved seed also facilitates food diversification and prevention of genetic erosion in rural agriculture.

There are many barriers to food security. Pest infestations, pervasiveness of fake or sub-standard seed, and climate-related changes that cause droughts and other extreme weather are major culprits.  These challenges are further exacerbated when national legislation and regulatory systems prevent the movement of key agricultural inputs, like seed, to help nations recover. Historically, SADC’s seed markets have been segregated, small and difficult to access. Without regional harmonization of seed legislation, a new variety must go through lengthy variety testing and release procedures before that seed can be marketed in each country—and it may only be marketed in that country. This ultimately denies farmers’ access to new seed varieties.  Additionally, variations between countries in national standards for seed certification and quality control, as well as quarantine and phytosanitary measures for seed, complicate trading of seed between countries, which becomes detrimental during emergency food crises and discourages further investment by the private sector.

The main goal of regional seed policy harmonization is to facilitate the integration of smaller, more isolated markets into one larger market. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), this has meant developing a set of guidelines for seed production and export that all 16 SADC Member States can agree on.  This regional set of seed guidelines is known as the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System (HSRS).  The SADC HSRS is not about enacting uniform seed legislation in each SADC country, but instead, it is about developing a common legal culture on seed regulation that is consistent with the commonly agreed standards, rules and procedures.

In February 2010, the SADC Ministers of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the implementation of the ‘SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System’. The Harmonized Seed Regulatory System is a set of rules, standards, procedures, and supporting measures necessary to facilitate the movement of seed (as a commodity) between countries in the region. It establishes commonly agreed regulatory standards, rules, and procedures related to:

The SADC HSRS intends to facilitate seed trade in the region and to increase the availability of high-quality seed to farmers by aligning national seed legislation with regional policy, allowing for significantly improved movement of seed across borders and removing technical barriers to trade.

The ultimate goal of the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System is to promote economies of scale for economic prosperity and improve the ability of SADC nations to respond to food shocks. There are many other benefits including: 

  • Increased investments in the seed sector
  • Increased seed production
  • More high-quality, improved varieties available to farmers
  • Food diversity
  • Increased competition and better prices
  • Greater potential for countries to earn valuable foreign exchange currency
  • Food security and increased resiliency
  • Hunger and poverty alleviation

When seed companies produce and export seed under the SADC HSRS, they not only gain access to all SADC markets, but because their seed consignment can bear the SADC seed label and is accompanied by a SADC seed certificate, it moves seamlessly across national borders. Countries that align their national legislation to the regional guidelines and create an enabling environment (lower costs, streamlined systems, reduced wait times) for seed trade also become an attractive market for seed companies, including local, small-scale seed producers.   

The SADC HSRS benefits any seed stakeholder in the region: seed producers, farmers, national governments, agro-dealers and distributors, staff who inspect and test seed, border and customs officials, and everyone in between. It also benefits the general population, reducing the likelihood of food shortages.  

If you are a seed producer looking to break out into a SADC market, reach out to the SADC Seed Centre.  If you are a farmer wanting access to improved, high-quality seed, visit the SADC Seed Variety Catalogue which lists approved varieties and the seed company that produces the variety or check with your local agro-dealer.



Get Involved

SADC Member States can align their national seed policies with the SADC HSRS.

Learn How

Seed producers can register improved seed varieties through a streamlined application process.

Learn More

Need market information? Discover which nations will have seed surpluses and deficits this season.

Learn More