The Nepalese Seed Sector

Nepal delegates for a Seed Sector Study tour. Source: Ruchi Narang/ IFPRI
Nepal delegates for a Seed Sector Study tour. Source: Ruchi Narang/ IFPRI

Seed, fertilizer, and irrigation are the major inputs that drive improvements in agricultural productivity. High-quality seed, alone, contributes a 15–20 percent increase in output levels. For major cereals, the key constraints facing Nepalese farmers are lack of access to high-quality seed and rates of seed replacement of less than 10 percent. Recent policy shifts toward private-sector involvement in the production of certified improved seed in Nepal are encouraging. Nearly 20 private seed companies are involved in producing and marketing seed, contributing around 27 percent of the country’s seed production. The public sector’s share of seed production is relatively high for wheat (for example, through the National Seed Company), whereas the community sector’s shares are higher for rice and maize. The private sector’s shares are moderate for wheat, rice, and maize, but are very high for vegetable crops.

Through the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Nepal branch of the United States Agency for International Development is supporting the Government of Nepal in its efforts to improve the policy and regulatory environment for seed production by addressing sales regulations and supporting the enactment of farmer- and agribusiness-friendly input policies and procedures. The main objectives of the research were (1) to critically examine constraints on attracting private investment in the commercial production and marketing of seed; (2) to recommend critical policy, regulatory, and capacity building measures both short term (less than two years) and medium term (three to five years); and (3) to provide detailed strategic inputs to increase private-sector involvement in the seed sector and to identify areas in need of institutional and programmatic support for the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the Seed Quality Control Centre, and the Nepal Seed Board.


For this study, the research team reviewed key documents; analyzed primary and secondary data; and met with key stakeholders to determine important constraints, gaps, and areas in need of reform. Recommendations and strategic formulations for policy, legal, institutional, and programmatic reform were identified and prioritized, as outlined below.

Key findings and Policy Recommendations

  1. Harmonize Nepal’s seed industry with global trade
  • Harmonize the local seed industry with the varietal research and seed production of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and Asian and Pacific Seed Association
  • Enact the policies of the World Trade Organization’s Intellectual Property Rights under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants and the Plant Variety Protection
  1. Strengthen and expand Nepal’s existing seed industry
  • Develop regional competitiveness
  • Simplify the process for registering new varieties
  • Provide incentives for Nepal’s private sector to engage in seed research and hybrid breeding
  • Improve private-sector representation within the Nepal Seed Board and Seed committee
    to contribute on policy decisions and reforms
  • Strengthen the capacity of the national research institutes to develop new, cost-reducing varieties and technologies
  • Develop programs for skills training, farm visits, and learning opportunities for staff from seed companies
  1. Attract foreign direct investment and global collaboration
  • Attract foreign direct investment for the local seed industry, as well as local and global investment
  • Promote collaboration and joint ventures in seed enterprises

In addition to the above recommendations, analysis of the legislation and policies governing Nepal’s seed sector clearly indicate that the elements required to strengthen the county’s private seed companies are largely present, but implementation mechanisms need to be developed. The analysis supports the objectives of National Seed Vision 2025 in developing inbred lines for commercialization by private seed companies, but appropriate procedures and guidelines for further multiplication are needed. This initiative could be developed as one of the models for public–private partnership in the area of hybrid research. Findings also propose that the government support the establishment of strong, viable seed companies by leasing the required land for testing the seeds before rolling in the marker. It is also advised that the government support such companies by providing (a) grants, subsidies, and tax and customs exemption for the purchase of seed equipment and machinery, and (b) skilled manpower across the chain for a fixed period.

Seed Security for Better Food Security

Seeds are selected at Bejo-Sheetal in Aurangabad. Source: Ruchi Narang, IFPRI
Seeds are selected at Bejo-Sheetal in Aurangabad. Source: Ruchi Narang, IFPRI

How to fast track the development and release of improved varieties of seeds in Nepal? What are quality assurances? How to attract private sector investment in commercial seed production there?

At the beginning of this month, IFPRI South Asia organized a 10-day seed sector study tour in India for a delegation of seed experts from Nepal who wanted answers to those questions.  The tour began in Delhi and  the delegation was to visit the National Seed Corporation of India (NSC) Vegetable Seed Processing Unit in Agra, then move on to seed testing and seed processing equipment units in Ambala, followed by a visit to MAHYCO, a leading seed national seed company  facility , Bejo Sheetal Seeds in Aurangabad and Namdhari Seeds and Indo-American Seeds Labs in Bangalore.

India has emerged as a major player in the global seed trade. The systems and infrastructure for seed production, processing and distribution are well developed and geared toward addressing the needs of farmers.

“The visit by the seed sector stakeholders from Nepal will provide a good opportunity for them to develop their own systems,” said Dr. Anjani Kumar, an IFPRI Research Fellow. He added that the tour would help to develop better seed policies and strategies for high seed replacement in Nepal.

The tour kicked off with an overview by the team from the NSC of the seed sector in India and its progress. It was apparent that quality seed alone can increase the productivity of different crops by 15-20 per cent. The NSC team said that, despite significant progress in this sector, policies to restructure quality assurance and enhancement, increase seed testing labs, ensure seed certification, provide financial incentives to small and medium seed companies to reach out to difficult areas, and moderate public sector seed units are necessary steps toward greater seed security in India.

The study tour is part of the ongoing USAID-funded Policy Reform Initiative in Nepal. As part of the capacity strengthening, another study tour on Plant Quarantine for Nepal delegates began on September 3. The aim of this tour is to help the Government of Nepal to enhance the capacity of its National Plant Quarantine Program (NPQP) in standards/guidelines preparation and implementation of the quarantine-related inspection and certification programs, in line with international practices.


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