Seed Customer FAQs

Seed Programs International

Ready to request seed? Download, complete, and send us our Request for Seed Form (pdf) or (Word), which answers many logistical questions while also providing a means to seek seed.

What are the benefits of a vegetable gardening program?

Food, Including Micronutrients: The greatest benefit is that poor and hungry people throughout the world have something to eat in addition to purely starchy foods. Vegetables give food rich in needed vitamins and minerals often missing from diets, while also providing needed calories. A plot of carrots produces equal caloric value to the same-sized plot of grain, while also providing essential Vitamin A and other key nutritional boosts to health, productivity, and survival.

Agrobiodiversity = Resilience: When people grow more diverse crops, such as in small vegetable gardens close to home, they are better insulated against crop failure, effects of disaster, and seasonal malnutrition.

Children: In developing countries the children are the ones who suffer the most and the ones who benefit the most from a gardening project. A one page article “The Impact of Chronic Hunger and Malnutrition on Children” was prepared by Dr. Kendal Hirschi for Seed Programs International. In referring to the need for fruits and vegetables in the children's diets he states, "The goal is not just to save children’s lives, but to allow all children the opportunity to thrive".

Financial Benefit: It is right to give food aid in disaster situations when the need is immediate. Shortly thereafter, shipping seed instead of shipping food has tremendous cost/benefit ratios for donors and aid providers.

For example, a packet of tomato seed contains about 100 seeds. There would be 100 packets in a one-box assortment of SPI seed. Those 100 packets together weigh 12 ounces and contain about 10,000 tomato seeds. If only 10% of the seeds produce plants due to poor management or soil conditions, that would be 1,000 plants. If each plant produced 6 medium sized fruit the plant would produce 2 pounds of tomatoes, or 2,000 pounds from the 12 ounces of tomato packets. The seed cost would be about $0.005 per pound of tomato.

What service does SPI provide to help you receive seeds?

SPI offers “turn-key” service to get top-quality vegetable seeds to your program site.

SPI arranges transportation for the seed from our warehouse to the port of entry.  SPI also obtains a phytosanitary certificate, when required, and provides partners with documentation needed for customs clearance or to obtain an import permit.  In-country partners are responsible for obtaining import permits, if required.

What is the price of SPI seed?

Seed is priced based on volume and ranges from 12 cents to 40 cents US per packet. The documents on our Order Seeds page give exact current pricing.

How is the cost of seed kept low?

Top-quality bulk seed is donated as individuals operating SPI have long relationships in the seed industry. SPI occasionally purchases seed when there is a worldwide shortage for a key species.

A large paper company donates the paper sheets used for printing seed packets. A company in New York prints the packets at low cost. A packet seed company in East Rochester, NY performs the following functions at low cost - warehouses seed, keeps track of inventory, fills packets with seed, places packets in protective plastic bags, loads pallets, arranges for Phytosanitary Certificates, and loads trucks.

Private, accredited seed laboratories test for germination at no cost.

Freight forwarders provide shipping coordination and logistics services at a reasonable cost.

Private donors and corporate sponsors help support the cost of staff time to manage our seed collection and our partner relationships.

We ask you, our seed customers, to provide reporting as to how the seed was used, what were the successes and challenges, and who benefited, along with photos and stories. This reporting helps us to keep seed costs low and to continually improve our programming.

How high-quality is SPI seed?

SPI seed varieties are chosen for their adaptability to stress conditions (heat, cold, disease and insect pressure, uneven watering). Most of our donated seeds are high-quality varieties bred for reliable commercial production by professional large-scale farms worldwide. This seed is much more expensive, if purchased at full price, than are the typical home-garden varieties found for sale by small merchants worldwide.

SPI seed is not accepted into our inventory unless it has a germination rate in the 85%-100% range. We then test all seed regularly to ensure it has not slipped below 80%.

USDA Phytosanitary Inspection is completed when required by the importing country or by your request at a cost of $61. This inspection affirms that all seed sent is pure, is the species represented, and and is free of disease, pests, and contamination. 

Is SPI seed hybrid or open-pollinated? Is it genetically modified?

SPI offers both hybrid and open-pollinated seed for most of the vegetable types we provide. Open-pollinated seed is the right choice if seed-saving is an objective for your program. Hybrid seed can be more vigorous and dependable in stress conditions, and may be the better choice if your main goal is to maximize odds of a successful harvest in year one.

Seed Programs International does not accept into our inventory nor offer to our partners any Genetically Modified (GMO) seed.

Who pays freight costs?

Freight costs from our packaging facility in East Rochester, NY, to the final destination are the responsibility of the receiving organization.

Is seed shipped by air or sea?

Air freight is recommended where possible.

The worst enemy of seed (a living organism) is heat, humidity and moisture.

If shipping ocean freight and proper precautions are taken the seed should arrive in good shape.

Are there other costs beside seed and transportation?

Another possible cost would be customs duties. Some countries charge a duty on seed while others do not. Other countries have no customs fees on seed or agricultural products intended for humanitarian purposes.

We can supply as part of our paperwork a Humanitarian Donation Invoice. On the invoice it will state that "For Customs Purposes the value of each box is $10.00".

SPI arranges for US Department of Agriculture phytosanitary inspection and issuance of a phytosanitary certificate. Only the cost of about $60 is passed on to the partner organization.

Who arranges for shipment?

SPI makes the arrangements and follows your instructions.

We have a good working relationship with freight forwarders. Both the cost of trucking and air freight have been discounted.

How much lead time is required for a large order?

Timing is very important as the seed industry is seasonal and can be very busy at certain times of the year. Two months lead time is suggested for large shipments of 10,000 packets and above.

Seed packets are not produced until a “Request For Seed” form is submitted and half payment is made.

How much lead time is required for a small order?

When a large order is produced a small quantity of seed is packaged for spot shipments from overrun. This places in inventory a filled-packet supply which we can use for smaller orders during the rest of the year.

These small orders of generally about 10,000 packets or less can be shipped more quickly than large orders where packets have to be printed and filled with seed. The biggest variable is the time needed to meet the import criteria of the receiving country. Some countries, like Haiti, require no special process and we can typically ship seeds within two weeks of order and downpayment. Other countries may require an extend bureaucratic process to enable import of vegetable seeds.

Many of our partners hand-carry seeds from the US on an international flight. Seed orders below 10,000 packets, chosen from our current inventory and sent to a US address can almost always be at your door in two weeks.

What languages are available on seed packets?

Our basic packet kept in stock for small shipments is printed in five languages:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Haitian
  • Swahili

For larger shipments, we can custom-print packets in any language. If we do not already have translated vegetable names and terms on file, we may need your help developing those. The following are on hand already:

  • Albanian
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Serbo-Croatian

When custom-printing packets, we can completely change the packet design to include your logo and/or a message of your choice, for a cost of US 1 cent per packet.


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Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815


Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON

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Seed Programs International (SPI)

Seed Programs InternationalSeed Programs International (SPI) is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-governmental humanitarian organization.

We work thorough other humanitarian organizations, church groups, service clubs and individual donors, to provide quality seed to impoverished communities in developing countries enabling them to grow some of their own food. In addition to seed, SPI provides critical seed expertise and experience operating seed based self help programs.”

SPI is operated by individuals with over 50 years seed industry experience plus over 20 years experience in vegetable research and production. We also have 15 years experience operating programs that have successfully shipped seed to over 70 countries on five continents. SPI has shipped enough seed to plant over 1,000,000 vegetable gardens, providing more than 20 kinds of vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals often missing in people’s diets.