64 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I n each issue, European Seed shines the spotlight on one of the many national seed associations in Europe that are so crucial in representing the local seed sector at both the national and international levels, along with sharing the sec- tor’s concerns with the government. Although seed and seed trade associations are present in many countries throughout the continent there is no such association in Latvia, so European Seed decided to look at several other factors that shape the seed sector environment in this country. According to a recent EU census (2010), the agricultural area in Latvia was close to 1.8 million hectares, which is roughly 28 per cent of the whole country. This was an increase of 25 per cent over the year 2000, and the growth of the cultivated agri- cultural area was the outcome of a more intensive use of land for agricultural production, the introduction of a land reform and the implementation of support payment programmes which followed Latvia's accession to the EU in 2004. FARM SIZE As a consequence, the average size of the agricultural holdings doubled in Latvia, growing from 10.2 hectares in 2000 to 21.5 hectares in 2010. The census also showed that in Latvia the total number of farms decreased mainly due to a reduction in the number of small farms, a development seen in many other EU Member States. This is highlighting some of the key trends in this Baltic country: the concentration of agricultural production in the larger holdings and the decrease in the number of agricul- tural holdings. Combined with this is an increase of agricultural land per inhabitant: in 2010, there were on average 0.8 hectares of agricultural area per inhabitant, a 33 per cent increase com- pared to the 2000 figure, one of the highest recorded within the EU-27. INTERNATIONAL REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT Latvia is well embedded in the international regulatory environ- ment. Since August 2002, the country is a member of UPOV, and has implemented the UPOV 1991 Convention in its national law for plant breeder’s rights. And in July 2016, Latvia became a member of the OECD. Within the OECD Seed Schemes, which sets the rules for seed certification, Latvia is a member of the Schemes for ‘Grasses and Legumes’ and for ‘Cereals’. The Latvian Seed Control Department, part of the State Plant Protection Service, functions as the National Designated Authority for seed certification and is in charge of plant breeder’s rights. And in terms of seed testing, Latvia’s National Seed Testing Laboratory, operating within the Latvian University of Agriculture, is an accredited member of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA). The country is a member of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), with the State Plant Protection Service as the official National Plant Protection Office (NPPO). But at the same time, Latvia is also a member state of the European Union (EU). As such, the country is required to imple- ment the plant health legislation of the EU. The phytosanitary import requirements for Latvia are therefore provided in the plant health legislation of the European Union, predominantly Council Directive 2000/29/EC of 8 May 2000, on protective meas- ures against the introduction into the community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the community. SEED GROWERS’ ASSOCIATION The seed growers’ interests are represented by the Latvian Seed Growers Association (LSA) (http://www.seklaudzetaji.lv/) which consists of nearly 50 members including 15 main seed producers consisting of breeding institutions and seed production com- panies. Its main aim is to defend the interests of the Latvian seed growers in front of the legislator and government institu- tions, combine their voices to achieve common objectives, and to inform other farmers and members about the LSA’s interests as well as take care of the intellectual property rights of the plant breeders. To gain experience of other countries, the asso- ciation's representatives from time to time travel abroad, such as to Finland (2001) or Norway (2008). Cooperation with other Baltic states is consistent, especially among the research and plant breeding institutions, as well as the seed producers. There is a frequent exchange of information, SPOTLIGHT: THE SEED SECTOR IN LATVIA THE SEED SECTOR IN LATVIA STEADY GROWTH AT EUROPE’S PERIPHERY BY: MARCEL BRUINS Plant breeding in Latvia. (Photo Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics in Latvia)