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South African National Seed Organisation: Unlocking the Potential in Agriculture

The seed industry in South Africa has evolved over the past 100 years and now plays a crucial role in the highly competitive and dynamic industry across the country. Consequently, the South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR) has spent the last 30 years facilitating the uninterrupted movement of high-quality seed across South Africa by positioning itself as a key player in local and international seed industries.  

Established in 1989, SANSOR provides local seed enterprises with a formal and strategic body to advocate and protect the interests of the seed trade across South Africa. To facilitate this, SANSOR has established strict certification regulations, legislation, training, phytosanitary support, and liaison across the industry to proudly play a significant role in today’s global seed industry. Therefore, SANSOR today is the nationally designated authority for seed certification throughout South Africa and continues to provide crucial support, communication, access, and research into the seed industry to benefit its member companies. SANSOR’s vision is to be the foremost authority on all seed matters and hopes that through its work across the industry, it can proactively shape the seed industry environment and continue to meet the growing demands of the population.  

SANSOR has 79 full members which include seed trade companies and cooperatives across the industry. SANSOR also has 18 associate members which include those that provide its products and services to full members and 3 affiliate members which are trade and technical associations. Additionally, SANSOR includes 4 international members, 2 third-party members, 8 research initiatives and 12 honorary members. Collectively these members work together with SANSOR to develop the industry across South Africa towards continued success. SANSOR provides its members with services including certification, phytosanitary support, trading links, development and training programs, global and local promotion, negotiation, and advocacy with government bodies, and conducting research to develop the industry in line with evolving population demands and climate needs.  

Furthermore, SANSOR itself is also a member of the International Seed Federation (ISF) and the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), which allows it to represent its members on various national and international platforms, whilst benefitting from the adoption of industry-wide recognised strategies and regulations. Consequently, SANSOR’s role across the seed industry is vast and works in conjunction with all the members, international seed organisations and government bodies to establish South African seed as a key facilitator to global markets.  

The major function of SANSOR however is its role in the certification of seed across the industry. SANSOR provides a legally sanctioned system for quality control of seed production, to ensure that every pack, box, bag, or tin received with the SANSOR quality stamp is ensured to contain exactly what it says it will. By establishing a set of regulations and standards for seed quality across its members, the Association is promoting seed liability, physical purity, varietal purity, and varietal identity of seeds for a stronger seed future for South Africa’s seed trade industry.  

SANSOR’s certification process involves more than 320 trained and authorized private seed inspectors and samplers who verify more than 50,00 hectares of seed crops annually. They analyse and establish the sources of seeds from breeder seeds, through to pre-basic to basic and certified seeds. Furthermore, SANSOR has more than 90 control and checkpoints to ensure that all seed that passes its certification is high quality and pure. The resulting certification ensures that all seed meets the demanding South African Seed Certification Scheme, which requires seeds to be certified as varietally pure both in terms of identity and physical appearance. By controlling the complete system from the release of a variety to the eventual release of seeds to a producer, SANSOR can ensure that all seeds produced across South Africa with the SANSOR certification logo can be trusted for its quality and purity.  

At present seed comprises only around 12% of grain farmers’ total input costs, but it plays a vital role in the resulting yield obtained at the end of the season. Therefore, through SANSOR’s quality assurance farmers can be sure seeds with the SANSOR certification stamp will help to produce uniform and disease-resistant crops, as without the certification poor seeds would lack the same yield potential even with the highest quality of soil and technology available. Consequently, SANSOR’s certification assurance allows farmers to purchase seeds with peace of mind knowing they are not compromising on quality, yield, and subsequent income.  

Furthermore, as seeds play such a key part in food production and hunger alleviation globally, the increase in seed quality through certifications such as those that SANSOR offers is evermore essential. Additionally, pest introductions and outbreaks can have disastrous effects across food production, and cost farmers, governments, and consumers millions every year. To prevent this loss, certification and regulations across seed industries are essential to keep a free-flowing state of seed in local, national, and international markets. To ensure the development of a viable and sustainable global seed market, prevention remains the best policy. Therefore, it is imperative for countries and governments to establish effective regulations to control and manage these risks. Ultimately, we can see that the role SANSOR plays in the global seed market is essential to ensure that the South African food and agriculture sector is supported and regulated for its continued seed prosperity.  

Overall, SANSOR continues to establish a consistent supply of high-quality seed across the industry in South Africa to establish a competitive and productive seed industry. By implementing regulations, working with its members, and government bodies and providing a leading certification to all seed produced in the country, SANSOR has created a predictable trading environment by eliminating trade barriers and promoting a consistent supply of high-quality seed. Therefore, SANSOR continues to lead the seed industry across South Africa and into global markets as a governing body which unites an ever-evolving industry toward the secure future of seed delivery and subsequent crop production.