Policy options for advancing seed systems for vegetatively propagated crops in Vietnam

Seed systems for vegetatively propagated crops (VPCs) are
frequently governed by regulatory blueprints designed for
major cereal crops. This approach tends to disregard the distinct biological characteristics of VPCs, thus limiting farmers’
access to high-quality planting material and increasing the risk
of pest and disease transmission. In this paper, we ask what
type of regulatory framework is appropriate for improving
farmers’ access to quality VPC planting material and what the
costs, benefits, risks, and unintended consequences are of
alternative regulations. We explore this in the context of cassava (Manihot esculenta) and potato (Solanum tuberosum) in
Vietnam through secondary data, key informant interviews,
and focus-group discussions. Findings indicate that despite
a regulatory regime that imposes strict rules on the production
and trade of planting material for VPCs, the market is largely
unregulated because of weak enforcement capacity. Instead,
producers and traders of VPC planting material signal quality
to farmers through trust, reputation, and long-term relationships. Though effective at a localized scale, these informal
systems are unlikely to accommodate expansion of the cassava
and potato sectors and unlikely to prove effective in managing
increases in pest and disease pressures that result from crossborder trade or climate change. We discuss alternative policy
approaches and argue that the most appropriate policy regime
requires a careful balance between a permissive regime at the
local level and strict regulatory surveillance and enforcement
at the national and regional levels. These approaches provide
lessons for other developing countries where VPCs are important for economic growth and agricultural development.