rice in husks
The new agreement would expand the current South Asia Regional Seed Policy Agreement.
Photo courtesy of IRRI.
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA — Agriculture ministers and representatives from nine countries are seeking to create a multi-country seed policy agreement that drastically speeds up the distribution of modern rice varieties in South and Southeast Asia.

The possible agreement was discussed during an International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) event. It brought together officials from Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam to discuss collaborative ways to improve the welfare of resource-poor farming families through innovative agricultural research.

One such approach is to ensure that farmers have easy access to improved technologies and advancements, particularly the seeds of newly developed climate-resilient rice varieties, the IRRI said. These modern varieties have helped vulnerable farmers by securing their food supply, and providing them with added income and the opportunity to invest in their own future.

The potential expansion of the regional seed-sharing agreement builds on the existing South Asia Regional Seed Policy Agreement, which was signed in 2014 by the governments of Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. Under the agreement brokered by IRRI, the new seed-sharing system allowed new and better seeds to reach the hands and fields of farmers more rapidly. In just three years, eight rice varieties already have been released and shared across the three countries.

The event provided a platform for the participants to share their experience with neighboring countries and to aid other nations in determining how the extension of such an agreement could positively impact the rice sector of their respective countries.

According to the IRRI, this is an opportune time for rice-growing countries to work toward a regional “seed diplomacy” that could benefit a higher number of farmers and consumers, leading to the development and strengthening of the rice sector.