Thursday, December 7, 2023

Seed industry postpones shift to digital

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Time runs out on training for new paperless certification system.
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The New Zealand Seeds Authority has delayed the launch of the Seed Certification Information System for the 2024 growing and harvest season. 

The Seed Certification Information System, or SCIS, has been undergoing its biggest upgrade in more than 30 years with the world-first quality control system and new digital database planned to come into effect for NZ cropping farmers in the new season’s seed harvest.

Industry spokesperson Thomas Chin said crops planted this season for harvesting in 2024 were to have been the first to be entered in the new system.

But with time having run out for the required training and engagement of all seed growers and seed processors before harvest begins in late November this year, the launch has been delayed. 

The delay will only be for a few months, as crop entries for sowing of crops in the new production cycle for the 2025 harvest will start early next year and these will be administered in the SCIS.

For the 2024 harvest AsureQuality will administer field inspections and issue grower declaration paperwork in the usual manner to growers for delivery of seed to processing stores at harvest. 

All operating processes for seed processor Ministry Approved Organisations (MAOs) will remain as they are.

A significant change coming into effect in 2024 is that certification charges for certified crops from the 2024 harvest will be invoiced by the New Zealand Seeds Authority (NZSA) instead of AsureQuality. 

This is so the NZSA can begin recovering costs for the development of SCIS and start paying back industry organisations that have provided funding for its development. 

This certification fee will replace the current Certification Charge and Seed Test Levy that appears on AsureQuality invoices. 

This charge is expected to be between 2.75c and 3c/kg for growers. 

The same or a slightly higher charge will be applied to seed companies, following a final reconciliation of how much each sector has already contributed to SCIS development.

Chin said the biggest change users of the new system will notice is the complete removal of paper-based application forms with all administration completed online.

Growers will also find that the system has lots of smart tools to help them check the eligibility of their crop applications for certification and to manage the information needed when they deliver their harvested crops into processing stores.

Certification assures the customer that the purchased seed retains varietal identity, genetic purity and high quality standards.

While it is anticipated there may be some learning challenges, farmers are assured that seed company agents have had training and will be able to give one-on-one coaching after the system goes live.

The new SCIS has been funded directly by value chain stakeholders as well as investment from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

Seed crops ranging from arable crops to brassicas, herbage grasses and legumes are checked throughout the growing cycle by growers, merchants and AsureQuality field inspectors to ensure good quality control, consistency and genetic purity.

Once harvested the seed is sampled and analysed by government-accredited laboratories to assess germination and purity.

The top certified seed crops are ryegrass, clover and cocksfoot.

Interim statistics show the total area of certified seed in NZ is about 44,000ha.

An analysis of the different varietal groups shows herbage and amenity grasses represent about 70% of the total certification area, with legumes at about 16%, brassicas 8% and arable crops 5%.

Seed certification was introduced in 1929 to ensure that cultivars of key agricultural plant species maintain their identity through successive generations of multiplication for the ultimate benefit of end users.

Chin said NZ’s high quality seed is respected both at home and abroad because of a highly capable industry applying rigorous certification standards and processes.

“This has resulted in our industry enjoying significant premiums for its certified seed in our domestic and international markets.”

Owned by the NZSA, a body representing farmers, seed companies and seed processors, the platform is thought to be the first in the world to utilise digital mapping technology to verify the area, location and paddock history of certified seed crops. 

“This feature reinforces the global status NZ has as being a trusted producer of seed that is true to type,” Chin said.

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