HARARE, Feb 10– Zimbabwe will host for the first time next month the annual congress of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

Formed in 1999, AFSTA is a non-profit organization set up to champion the interests of seed traders on the African continent.

Seed Co Managing Director Denias Zaranyika , who is also AFSTA vice-president, said here Monday the congress would be held from March 2 to 5 at the Elephant Hills Hotel and would discuss existing and future issues and trends in the seed industry.

Some of the topics to be discussed during the congress included seed legislation, seed marketing, seed certification, crop protection and plant property rights, he added.

“We have brought AFSTA to Zimbabwe, we are presenting it to you, we are saying let us make full use of this event,” he said.

“There are a lot of benefits that will accrue. We are posturing Zimbabwe as an agricultural country, we are posturing Zimbabwe as a peaceful country, we are posturing Zimbabwe as a country with systems that work, we are posturing Zimbabwe as a leader in agricultural activities in Africa and we know the term ‘breadbasket’ belongs to us and this is an opportunity to reclaim it.”

Zaranyika said at least 300 delegates had already confirmed participation, with the number expected to rise to 500. Several international organizations, including the International Seed Federation, the International Seed Testing Association, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Asia Pacific Seed Association, will attend the congress.

Speaking at the same event, Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association chairman Walter Chigodora said hosting the AFSTA was a major development for Zimbabwe. “It is also a platform to accentuate the importance of the seed sector in attaining food security in Africa and how delegates can play a key role in influencing responsive policies, rules and regulations that govern the seed industry in particular, and the agricultural industry in general,” he said.

Other countries that have hosted the congress previously include, Mali, Cameroon, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia. The AFSTA was set up out of a need to have a regional representative body for the seed industry, which could also serve to promote the development of private seed enterprises.

The organization, which is based in Kenya, has a diplomatic status and now has about 100 members comprising seed companies and national Seed Trade Associations.