After South Sudan gained independence, the country established the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) in 2010 with support from regional and international organizations, as well as donors. Instability has rendered most of the existing seed companies ineffective, and many have temporarily relocated to Uganda. Given this, the country largely depends on food imports despite fertile lands and an array of agroecological zones where various crops can be grown. The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) mentors the Seed Trade Association, which is still in its infancy.
The seed sector falls under the Research and Plant Protection Directorates of MAFS, which suffers from limited funding. Non-governmental organizations and the Food and Agriculture Organization lead the seed sector with an emphasis on community-based production of quality declared seeds, funding cycles. Seed production, in collaboration with MAFS, is geared toward topping up imported seeds and food items from neighboring countries for distribution.
MAFS has seed regulations in place based on the Harmonized East African Seeds Standards and Regulation, and is an active member of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. It also has a Seeds Act, which is still before the parliament, and is guided by COMESA’s harmonized seeds policy.
Through AGRA, the research department of MAFS increased local capacity for breeding varieties of maize, sorghum, rice, beans, cowpeas, groundnuts, sesame and cassava. Breeding programs focus on developing disease resistant, drought tolerant and high yielding varieties. Nevertheless, commercial seed companies acquire most parent seeds from national and international research stations. Vegetable seeds are not being produced in South Sudan on a commercial basis, except for such as okra. AGRA-supported seed companies are emerging in the country, with additional funding from USAID, the Howard Buffet Foundation and the Dutch government.
The political and regulatory instability in South Sudan following independence in 2010 is reflected in a lack of seed activities in the country, despite a relatively healthy presence of index companies. Of the nine that are present, six have purely sales activities, including global players Bayer, Corteva Agriscience and Limagrain. Global peer East-West Seed is the only company testing varieties, from its own vegetable portfolio, in the country.
Equator Seeds and FICA Seeds, the only two companies with seed production activities (in field crops), are both based in neighboring Uganda. This facilitates easier access and duplication of such activities from their home market, but neither involves smallholder farmers within production.
None of the companies provides extension services—a clear area for improvement particularly given the immature nature of the seed sector in South Sudan, yet understandably at a low level given the current security situation.