Middle East Seed Industry News

This page features a compilation and selection of Middle East seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirites.

The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

Iran 95 percent seed self-sufficient, claims Ag Minister:
According to an article citing Iran’s Minister of Agriculture, Kazem Khavazi, Iran “has achieved self-sufficiency in producing nearly all varieties of seeds.” The minister, quoted here during a conference on December 13, claimed that “agricultural seeds consumed in the country, except the vegetable seeds, are produced by the local experts at the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute and the Dryland Farming Research Institute.” The Minister went on to say that the country is now above 95 percent self-sufficient in producing seeds, and would become self-sufficient in producing vegetable seeds by March 2022, though the article did not disclose the current figure for self sufficiency in vegetable seeds. 

ICARDA Syrian seed conservation, distribution highlighted in paper: NOVEMBER 2020:
The dedicated seed conservation and distribution efforts of the International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in recent months and years are thoroughly documented in a paper recently published in the journal Nature. In the 9 November published paper, linked here, or without a paywall here, it is detailed how ICARDA managed to safety duplicate a bulk of its collection before 2014-2015 when it had to vacate its Gene Bank in Telhadia, Syria due to war. In the period that followed, samples were safe-kept at other gene banks, including the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and since 2015 ICARA staff rebuilt their collections and resumed distribution of seeds to users internationally from their new premises in Morocco and Lebanon. The regenerated seeds include wheat, chickpeas, lentils, alfalfa and other endemic varieties were stored in Svalbard as a backup for ICARDA's own collection. More than 30,000 samples have been regenerated annually since 2016, and by the end of the regeneration season in 2019, 83,702 accessions were already available to the users of the ICARDA collection.

Food crisis looms in wake of blast that destroyed port: August 2020:
Damage to Beruit’s Port and its onsite grain silos resulting from the devastating explosion on August 4 that killed hundreds and injured thousands, has compromised Lebanon’s already-dire food security. According to the The World Food Programme (WFP), “120,000 metric tons of the country’s staple food stocks stored at the port — including wheat, soy and other beans— have perished”, which will cause food prices to skyrocket. The WFP, behest of the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, has responded by allocating a total of 5,000 food parcels, each able to feed five people for one month. In addition, the WFO will continue to offer assistance to 107,000 Lebanese through electronic debit cards that can be used to purchase US$40 worth of food per month. According to the WFP, “even before the explosion, food security in Lebanon was a cause of serious concern, with one million people already living below the poverty line”. 85% of the Lebanon’s food needs are met by imports, which have seen a sharp decline in the six months up to April. According to Reuters, of the grain that was destroyed at what was Lebanon's only large grain silo, there was about 15,000 tonnes of privately-owned wheat, while Lebanon consumes up to 40,000 tonnes a month of the staple grain. According to World-Grain.com, the 120,000-tonne capacity figure derives from “48 big cells with a capacity of 2,500 tonnes per cell, 50 small cells with a capacity of 500 tonnes per cell and a suction speed of 600 tonnes per hour.”

Jordan to upgrade National Seed Bank: August 2020:
Officials and seed industry stakeholders  in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recently signed a collaboration agreement to upgrade the country’s National Seed Bank. The news was revealed in a LinkedIn post by Dr. Nizar Haddad, the Director General of Jordan’s National Agricultural Research Center, who wrote: “In the honorable presence of H.E. the President of the Royal Hashemite Court, Yousef Al Issawi, H. E. the Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Dr. Mohi El Din Touq, H.E. the Minister of Environment & Acting Minister of Agriculture Dr. Saleh Al Kharabsheh, Chairman of the Hashemite University Board of Trustees Dr. Yasin Al Husban, and the Secretary General of the Higher Council for Science & Technology Dr. Diaa Al Din Arafa, I was honored to jointly sign with Dr. Fawaz Al Zboun, a collaboration agreement for upgrading the National Seed Bank. See post here

Covid closed borders proves boon for Iraqi agriculture productivity, but crops rotting: August 2020:
Closing Iraq’s borders due to fear of the spread of coronavirus has been credited to the revival of the agriculture sector through increased farm productivity to supply demand in the domestic market, which had been relying on imports for 17 years. AI Monitor reports on July 21, citing this DW video report. However, according to this report on August 9, some locales, such as in the Yazidi community in the Sinjar district of northwest Iraq, have not benefited as many crops have been left to rot due to the restrictions on movements domestically.