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Pakistan Seed Industry

Present day seed industry is a combination of public and private seed sector. This is called as formal seed system. Farmers in Pakistan also save their own seed and exchange seed with each other or buy seed from the local traders and market under the informal seed system (Figure). With the induction of private seed sector, the availability of quality seed has increased up to 18 per cent. The total investment in installation of 143 seed processing plants/units, is about Rs. 818.655 million and share of private sector is Rs.639.783 million. The processing capacity has increased from 12.24 to 35.43 per cent. Total employment generation in seed industry according to the data available so far is 24716. The storage capacity has been increased up to 18.17 per cent against the total estimated seed requirement (1340719 mt.) for all crops.

It is expected that seed industry will become one of the leading employment generating sector for our economy. There is no restriction on private sector to distribute or export/import of any crop seed. Presently, private sector mainly trade in low volume high profit seeds. Whereas the public sector has the mandate to produce high volume low cost seeds like wheat and pulses. The multinationals deal in hybrid seeds of oilseed, corn and forages but these companies mainly import the seeds of these hybrid crops. There is strong desire from the farming community that main emphasis should be given on local hybrid seed production, so that it could be made available at appropriate price.

agricultulre growth percentage

Recent Development

To produce high quality seeds of various crops, the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department has started many new activities. In the new era of globalization and international trade of seed across the border, we have to fulfill the obligation of WTO/TRIP etc. In this scenario, our seed products need to meet the international standard. It can only be possible if we strengthen our quality control system. Some of the recent development made in seed industry are as follow:

  1. Seed Act enforcement
  2. Monitoring of seed quality during export and import.
  3. Seed health program
  4. Rules for horticultural fruit plant
  5. Establishment of variety data bank

Current and Future Trends

Seed Industry of Pakistan is developing very fast. In future, it will not be so easy to give 100 per cent services by the government. Moreover international flow of material will be increased many times. So it is urgently, needed to develop basic infrastructure to handle new situation. FSC&RD which is the focal point of Pakistan seed industry, has already initiated good work under the supervision of Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. The following steps are being taken for further improvement of seed industry.

  1. Training and authorization of seed technicians in private sector
  2. Seed technology research and training center

Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department (FSC&RD) is an institute comes under Ministry of Food & Agriculture, which regulates the seed industry by controlling seed quality, certification and law enforcement. The department is also responsible for the registration of agriculture seed companies. Seed companies may register themselves to provide one or all the services mentioned below

  • Seed production & multiplication
  • Seed processing
  • Seed packing & distribution
  • Seed marketing

Seed processing has a very crucial role in seed quality after production and harvesting. In the recent past, cleaning of seed at home by winnowing was considered the only method of cleaning seed. But in the current situation of food scarcity for the ever increasing population, this method is inadequate on commercial scale rather a full range of processing machinery, i.e. cleaner, grader, dryer, separator, seed treater, weighing machine and packaging machine, etc., is required.


National seed program has passed through many transitional phases in Pakistan from 1947-61. The seed of improved varieties used to be multiplied and distributed by Department of Agriculture. Most of the farmers often practiced to use their own saved seed or they exchanged seed with other fellow farmers. West Pakistan Agricultural Development Corporation (WPADC) was established in 1961, to initiate systematic seed production and its distribution through its own mobile marketing network. This system remained highly inefficient due to excessive procurement than the actual sale. Though due to such inefficiency, the WPADC was dissolved but it created seed quality awareness though the establishment of seed testing laboratories in the country. Realizing the importance of seed quality control, variety registration, seed production and multiplication program, the government launched a seed industry project during 1976 with the assistance of FAO/IBRD. This has provided sound basis for quality seed production program based on scientific lines. The seed system was given legal coverage through promulgation of Seed Act, 1976. Necessary institutional infrastructure was established as under

  1. National Seed Council (NSC) at Federal Level.
  2. Provincial Seed Councils (PSC) at each provincial level.
  3. Federal Seed Certification Department (FSCD).
  4. National Seed Registration Department (NSRD).

Under the economic austerity measures, the FSCD and NSRD were merged together during 1997 and the new organization has been designated as Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department (FSC&RD).

Seed Production Agencies

Seed multiplication, production, processing, storage and marketing is done by the public and private seed sector in provinces. Private seed companies take basic seeds of various crop varieties from public sector seed agencies (statutory obligation) and multiply and market through their own network as certified seed.

Public sector seed agencies

Public sector seed agencies are obliged to get pre-basic seeds of various crop varieties from research institutes and multiply to produce basic seed for private seed companies and for their own requirement in their respective province. Anyhow, Punjab Seed Corporation has also developed a mechanism for the production of Breeder’s Nucleus seed and pre-basic seed at its own farms in collaboration with respective Plant Breeders and Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department.

  1. Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC), Lahore
  2. Sindh Seed Corporation (SSC), Hyderabad
  3. NWFP Agricultural Development Authority (ADA), Peshawar
  4. Baluchistan Department of Agriculture (BDA), Quetta

From 2001-2002, Sindh Seed Corporation has ceased to function and seed program has been assigned to Foundation Seed Cell.

From 2000-2001, ADA has ceased to function and seed program has been assigned to various components of NWFP Department of Agriculture.

Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province have no full-fledged seed corporation in public sector. The activities of seed are carried out by the department of Agriculture Extension in Baluchistan and by the various components of NWFP, Department of Agriculture.

Private seed sector

Pakistan seed industry has large volume of private seed companies. It comprises of 372 national seed companies including five multinational seed companies. Government has very liberal policy to encourage further induction of private seed sector into seed business.

Auality Control Agency

Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department provides quality control cover through registration of crop variety, crop inspection and seed testing. This system is being implemented at federal level under the Seed Act, 1976.

Institutional Provisions and Salient Features of Seed Act, 1976

Seed Act provides mechanism for controlling and regulating the quality of seeds of various crop varieties. Its salient features include

  1. National Seed Council with well-defined functions including policy regulations, standards and investment issues.
  2. Federal Seed Certification and Registration agency along with its regulatory and quality control functions.
  3. Establishment of provincial seed councils (Section-9).
  4. It empowers the Federal Government to notify in the official gazette, the varieties or species of seed for production, the minimum limits of germination and purity standards for which such seed conforms to the mark and label.
  5. It regulates sale of seed of notified varieties and species.
  6. Appointment of registered growers to produce seed in the prescribed manner
  7. It prescribes the period for which registration and certification shall remain effective (the registration of a grower for producing seed shall be effective for such period not exceeding five years, as may be prescribed).
  8. It empowers the Federal Seed Certification Agency to appoint by notification in the official gazette a Seed Analyst to test the quality and purity of seed
  9. It authorizes the Federal Seed Certification Agency to appoint the Seed Certification Officer and Seed Inspector by notification in the official gazette
  10. The Act delegates powers to Seed Inspectors to inspect and take samples of any seed in labeled containers purporting to contain seed of a notified variety or species of seed from any person producing, selling, delivering, stocking or distributing seeds and send such samples for analysis to the nearest laboratory of the Federal Seed Certification Agency
  11. It prescribes offenses and penalty for a person which contravenes any provision of this Act or any rule. For the 1st offence, a fine not exceeding Rs.1000/- and where the offence continues after conviction, a fine of Rs.100/- for each day during which the offence continues and for a subsequent offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and with fine or with both. The amendment draft of Seed Act, 1976 is being finalized for submission of Federal Government.

National Seed Council is the supreme body concerns with all pursuits of seed both in public and private sectors. It works under the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Government of Pakistan

Functions of NSC

  1. To advise on policy for the development, operation and regulation of the Provincial Seed Industries
  2. To maintain a watch on the operation of the provisions of this Act
  3. To guide in administering the seed quality control service
  4. To direct initiation of Provincial Seed Projects
  5. To ensure and protect investment in the seed industry
  6. To approve and sanction seed standards
  7. To regulate inter-provincial seed movement
  8. To advise on import of seeds
  9. To co-ordinate the arrangements for the maintenance of genetic potential
  10. To co-ordinate multiplication and supply of seeds of approved varieties
  11. To assist in developing approved seed production farms
Federal Seed Registration Committee (FSRC)

FSRC work on behalf of National Seed Council and prepare necessary data and record pertaining to registration of different crop varieties.

Functions of FSRC
  1. To assess suitability of varieties for registration in regard to inter alia, distinctness, uniformity, stability and value for cultivation and use based on recommendations of the provincial government.
  2. To recommend the registration of new varieties and areas for their suitability.
Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC)

This committee also works on behalf of the National Seed Council but under the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council. It makes arrangements for National Uniform Yield Trial (NUYT) and evaluates performance of candidate crop varieties for regional suitability/adaptability and disease reaction. Such evaluation is carried out through traveling seminar. Seed Act, 1976 does not mention about VEC.

Provincial Seed Councils (PSCS)

Provincial Seed Councils have been established under section 9 of the Seed Act, 1976. Work on the same lines as National Seed Council but in their respective province. They can approve the variety but notification is issued by the Federal Government after registration process.

Plant Variety Registration System

It is a legal system to register the crop variety. FSRC is responsible to evaluate the report of DUS and VCU prepared by FSC&RD and recommend the registration of variety to NSC.

Crop variety development is the main domain of public sector organization in the provinces. At a federal level, PARC coordinates for all research pertaining to variety evaluation and testing and provides funding to some specific projects which are unique and not carried out by provinces previously. Research on cotton crop is exclusively carried out by PCCC. No doubt multinational seed companies after conducting local trials started submitting their hybrid varieties of sunflower, maize, sorghum for registration etc. but they enjoy privilege of trading seed under Seed (Truth-in-Labeling) Rules, 1991.

Plant breeders test their promising strains in micro varietal trials, breeding stations, sub-stations and the zonal varietal trials for a sufficient number of years. When a breeder selects a variety after sufficient years of testing, he submits it to PARC for evaluation of its value for cultivation and use. Simultaneously, breeder submits a seed sample of that variety to FSC&RD for evaluation of distinctness, uniformity and stability (statutory obligation for registration).

Variety registration and release

A variety that meets the requirements of VCU and DUS is accepted for registration by the FSC&RD. The department submits its DUS report to Federal Seed Registration Committee. The committee evaluates the report regarding DUS and VCU and recommends its registration. The National Seed Council approves the registration and release of a variety. Notification is issued by Federal Government. All the decisions are made based on consensus of opinion by the experts. A number of agencies are involved in the process of variety development, evaluation, maintenance, registration and release.

Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department keeps the record of variety registration along with all morphological characters. The varieties registered, released and notified through the process, can be multiplied under seed certification system.

Seed Certification System

Certification system is a legal and regulatory mechanism. It is performed by the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, an attached department of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. To maintain and make availability of genetically pure seeds of improved varieties, the whole process is done at two main stages.

1. The crop raised for the production of seed is inspected by FSC&RD for genetically purity.

2. The seed samples are drawn after harvest of the crop and analyzed in the laboratory for evaluation on the basis of prescribed seed standard (analytical purity).

In addition to this, pre and post control plots are laid out to ascertain the genetic purity of the seed and seed-borne diseases. In Pakistan, seed certification system has four recognized categories.

1. Pre-basic seed. 2. Basic Seed. 3. Certified seed. 4. Approved seed

Crop Inspection

The purpose of crop inspection is to determine whether or not the crop is suitable for the production of seed of the standard required. The genetic purity of seed crop is assessed through field crop inspection. Inspection is carried out only for notified varieties based on physio-morphology characteristics develop through DUS studies. Before carrying out crop inspection, the following preliminaries are verified

  1. Verification of the source from the labels, seals, bags or receipt of seed purchased
  2. Acreage and location of the seed field.
  3. Cropping history of the field where the seed crop is grown.
  4. Isolation distance of seed crops from other crops.
  5. Condition and health of the crop to carry out crop inspection properly. Crop must not be very much weedy or damaged.
  6. Application from grower or seed agency, requesting for crop inspection.

If all the above conditions are found satisfactory then a detailed assessment of the crop is carried out to determine the following factors:

  • a) Admixture with other cultivars.
  • b) Admixture with other species
  • c) Presence of weeds particularly obnoxious weed plants.
  • d) Presence of seed-borne diseases.
Agencies Responsible for Variety Development, Evaluation and Maintenance

Plant exploration and introduction Germ plasm bank Variety development Crop variety testing and approval Variety registration Crop variety testing and approval Basic seed production Certified seed production BNS & Pre-basic seed 25 After the crop inspection, the grower or seed company is informed about the decision/recommendations or other measures, necessary to bring the crop up to the prescribed standards. At final inspection, a certificate is issued by the department on the prescribed form.

Seed Testing

Seed testing is carried out to assess the analytical purity of seed lot. The following steps are taken to ensure quality of seed lot.

Submission of application for sampling

Seed samples are drawn from the produce whose fields have been certified subject to the prescribed written request by the grower. Three samples are drawn from each seed lot by the officer of the FSC&RD according to the method as prescribed in ISTA rules (1990). One sample is given to the respective seed testing laboratory and 2nd is handed over to the grower or seed agency. The 3rd sample is submitted to the central seed testing laboratory for post control check.

Requirement for seed lots to be sampled

It should be ensured before seed sampling that seed lot must be homogeneous. Credibility of results depends on the representative samples. Number of seed samples are drawn according to the size of seed lot.

Seed analysis

Working samples are made from the submitted samples in the laboratory. Each seed of the working seed samples is physically examined using magnifying lens. Doubtful seeds are further examined under stereo-microscope. Every crop seed is examined for purity on the basis of morphological characters of particular crop variety. Seed sample is analyzed for the assessment of the following factors.

  1. i) Purity (pure seed).
  2. Mixture of the crop seed (other distinguishable varieties).
  3. Presence of weeds.
  4. Inert matter.
  5. Seed-borne diseases.
  6. Moisture test.
  7. Thousand seed weight.
  8. Germination
  9. Seed lots are rejected or accepted on the basis of seed standards prescribed by the National Seed Council for individual crops.
Issuing of seed analysis certificate and temporary labels

After the seed analysis in the laboratory for the above mentioned factors, certificate of fitness is issued by the department and temporarily labels are also issued. These labels carry the following information printed on it:

  1. Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department.
  2. Reference number
  3. Species.
  4. Cultivar
  5. No. of bags/containers
  6. No. of bags/containers
Seed sampling during processing and issuing of final labels and seals

All the seed lots are processed at processing plants/units by the seed agency. During processing, seed samples are drawn and analyzed in the laboratory. After this, a certificate is issued on the prescribed form and final labels and seals are also issued on the spot.

Re-testing of seed lots

To assess any deterioration during storage, a re-test sample is drawn from each lot at two months prior to its actual distribution/sale. Seed samples are analyzed for all the factors as mentioned above. Finally, the seed agencies are allowed to offer seed lots cleared by the FSC&RD.

Checking of Seed lot During Marketing and Import / Export

To check the sale of deteriorated, inferior and low quality seed, the Federal Seed Certification Department monitors the quality of seed during distribution and marketing. The department has established a system of seed testing under the Seed (Truth-in Labeling) Rules, 1991 and also in accordance to the guidance of import policy 1999. Seed samples are drawn from all the seed consignments and tested for their analytical purity and germination. The label placed on the containers is verified. If the seed lot does not match with the information given on the label, the consignment is not allowed to sale as seed in Pakistan.

Previous sections have presented several important findings.

  1. First, the Pakistani seed industry is large and diversified. Although certified seed is only about 20 percent of the total seed requirement, quality seed— which is not the same as certified seed—may constitute a larger proportion. There is large-scale private sector participation in the seed business by Pakistani seed companies and MNCs. The number of seed companies is still growing, but at the same time vertical and horizontal integration has started to take place, which shows that the industry may be emerging from its growth phase into its consolidation phase. However, the private sector’s focus is limited to a small number of crops.
  2. Second, the legal structure is ancient and internally inconsistent. Developed four decades ago to support a state-led provision of seed, it has long exhausted its potential to foster the growth of Pakistan’s seed industry. The need to reform the legal and institutional regime is clear, but there are deep divisions on how to move forward toward this end. Various actors— the seed business, scientists, and regulators—deploy their professional networks to steer the reform process in their favor. The lack of internal agreement has hampered efforts to rewrite the regulations.
  3. Third, farmers are almost entirely absent from the discourse. They appear to be the passive recipients of development within the seed industry. Farmers’ lack of representation in important policy forums, such as the national and provincial seed councils or in the proposed PBR Registry, confirms that they play a limited role in setting agendas, determining priorities, and monitoring seed quality.
  4. Fourth, conceptualization of the formal and the informal sectors is challenged by the above discussion. The formal may be understood as the sale of certified seed of approved varieties by registered seed companies through their licensed dealers. Or it may be understood as commercial distribution of seed under company labels. These represent two different paradigms. The former requires several permissions before a seed can legitimately reach the farmer—registration for the company, approval for the variety, license for the dealer, and certification for the seed. The latter relies almost exclusively on truth-in-labelling—i.e., a seed that meets quality benchmarks may be marketed so long as the provider is ready to associate its name with the product. The buyer, rather than the official, makes the decision regarding what stays in the market and what leaves.
  5. If the formal sector is defined as the former, around 80 percent of the seed sector in Pakistan is informal. However, if it is defined as the latter—the entire segment being provided by seed companies under their labels will fall in the formal sector, regardless of whether the variety is approved or the seed is certified.

  6. Fifth, the clash between the two sectors emerges as less distinct than previously believed. Thus, neither the formal nor the informal sector emerges as a discrete entity. More pertinently, these are sectors across which seed providers move over time, or in which they may be multiply located for the same or different crops.
Several policy recommendations also need to be discussed.
  1. First, there is a strong and urgent case for reimagining the regulatory framework. When farmers have multiple providers to choose from in a functioning, competitive market, why not let them use their judgment to select the best seed they thinks best suits their site-specific agro-climatic conditions. The state should redefine its role from an entity that certifies, approves, registers, and licenses to an entity that defines benchmarks, enables accreditation services, and ensures compliance with benchmarks. Making variety registration voluntary and replacing certification by truth-in-labelling is not a call for a withdrawal of the state from seed regulation; rather, it is a call for strengthening regulation by making it reflect current seed business practices. The draft Punjab Seed Act, 2011 may be a good starting point to move forward in this direction. Its proposal to establish a private-sector-led, independent regulatory authority and to deal with scheduled and other crops differently merits consideration.
  2. Second, variety release procedures should be simplified and made more transparent. In the current milieu, breeders find these procedures time consuming and unwarranted. They are also reluctant to submit their seed to institutes for evaluation because the two compete in the market with similar products. Ideally, variety registration should be voluntary. But even if an approval regime must be put in place for commercially important crops, it should aim at formalizing, rather than penalizing, the informal sector
  3. Third, the role of FSC&RD needs to be redefined. FSC&RD provides two services: registration of varieties and certification of seed. Given that registration benefits neither the breeder nor the farmer, why should it be required at all? Similarly, seed certification has become largely irrelevant, as much for the lax implementation regime as for farmers’ reliance on their judgment, rather than a tag issued by an official displayed on the seed bag. Companies usually obtain these certification tags from FSC&RD to avoid unwarranted inspections, rather than for any value that the tags may add to their business.

Similarly, PSC also needs to develop a better business model, as the current model is flawed on several counts. PSC is unable to dispose of the seed it produces on its farms or procures from its registered growers. Thus, rather than being a mainstream seed provider, it struggles every year to offload its stocks. Further, PSC is providing commodities that are being supplied (more successfully) by several providers in the private sector. Why should PSC compete with these private providers in crops where it has neither a competitive advantage nor an established market share? There appears to be a case for either closing down PSC or shifting its focus to producing seed for niche and ignored markets.

Further policy research needs to be reoriented to the informal sector. Rather than investing in collecting and analyzing data on the provision of certified seed, which constitutes only 20 percent of the total seed requirement, investing in understanding the dynamics of the use and provision of uncertified seed will yield more productive results. Determining how seed providers compete on seed quality in a market with an unusually large number of providers will be instructive. It will also be useful to explore ways to support farmers in saving their seed, which will continue to be an important source for several crops.

The higher cost of production has continuously been haunting the farmer community in Pakistan. This, together with climate change impact, has been resulting in poor production and negative growth rates at times.

The agriculture sector is the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy as it contributes around 20 percent in the overall gross domestic product (GDP) – which stands for the total value of all final goods and services produced within the economy during a certain period- and is also a big source of employment. It helps meet the food requirement of the ever-increasing population, providing raw materials to all the major industrial sectors including textiles, leather, sugar, flour milling etc., and has a significant role in decreasing rural poverty.

As per Economic Survey of Pakistan (ESP 2015-16), out of total contribution of agriculture to the GDP major crops contribute 4.67 percent to the GDP, other crops 2.25 percent, livestock 11.61 percent, fisheries 0.43 percent and forestry 0.41 percent each.

This sector also provides 65 percent of the total exports of Pakistan. A further breakdown shows 73.2 percent is cotton and cotton-based products while fruit, rice, livestock and others contribute 26.8 percent

As per the ESP 2015-16, the agriculture sector provides employment to 42.3 percent of the country’s total labor force while in Punjab it provides employment to 43.5 percent of the people in the province, and to more than 61 percent in the rural areas.

And when Pakistan is compared with the rest of the world on the basis of the agriculture sector, the country ranks 9th in wheat production, 11th in rice production with an edge of having aromatic long grain basmati, 4th in cotton production, and 14th in sugarcane with a comparative advantage in mango, citrus and dates. Similarly, in livestock, it is 2nd in Buffalo's population, 13th in cattle, and 9th in sheep and 3rd in goat while in milk production Pakistan’s standing is at 4th place in the world.

Despite all of these amazing numbers, the agriculture sector, which has traditionally sustained a satisfactory growth to ensure food security for our growing population, presently faces a major challenge of low returns to farmers because of higher costs of production. The reasons behind, among many, are uncertified seeds, counterfeit or substandard pesticides and herbicides resulting in low yields of some crops especially cotton—which is the main cash crop and provides the raw material for the biggest export sector of the country i.e., textiles.

The year 2015-16 saw a dismal performance of the agriculture sector when it registered negative growth of 0.19 percent against 2.53 percent of the same period in last fiscal year. The last negative growth in agriculture was witnessed by the country in the year 2000-01. (ESP 2015-16)

In recent times, many farmer organizations have staged protests on the roads time and again against the expensive inputs and have demanded decrease in the prices of fertilizers, fuel and electricity charges for agricultural purposes, provision of high-quality disease-resistant seeds and a better per acre yield.

Declining international prices had hit hard the wheat growers, rice, and cotton farmers while unfortunately, our cotton sector witnessed a huge downward trend because of the poor cotton seed especially the so-called Bacillus thuringiensis cotton seed introduced to the growers through informal sectors. Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that produces toxins harmful to a variety of insects, including bollworms that attack cotton. Bt cotton was created by introducing genes from the bacterium into the cottonseed, creating a crop resistant to this pest.

This calls for well-thought-out interventions to improve agriculture products’ value addition at the farm levels and industrial linkages, especially under the existing situation, when the agricultural commodities’ returns do not equal the increasing cost of production. A vibrant industrial sector understanding of these challenges are required to support the farm sector.