Seed shortages loom in Zim

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LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

Zimbabwe could plunge into serious seed shortages in the 2019/2020 summer cropping season amid indications that most maize seed farmers have held on to their crop due to  poor prices.

This could worsen the already fragile agriculture-dependent economy as a poor summer cropping season has ripple effects on the economy.

The country’s biggest seed producer Seed Co managing director Denias Zaranyika told Business Times that monetary authorities should make finance readily available to pay seed farmers  so that they can release seed maize for the forthcoming season.

“We are faced with a very difficult situation in supplying adequate seed this season as seed producers are reluctant to bring seed maize to us due to the liquidity crunch that has stalked the nation over the past few years.

“The situation is even harder that we are now almost in September and we have a serious short supply as far as maize seed is concerned. The situation is so dire that the season kicks off in October for those farmers with irrigable land and we are way less than half of the country’s seed requirements,” said Zaranyika.

Zimbabwe needs close to 100 000 tonnes of maize seed every season and only a third of that is said to be available for the forthcoming season.

Zaranyika believes if seed growers are paid adequately and on time the seed situation may improve in the country.

Zimbabwe’s summer cropping season traditionally kicks off mid-October but with serious climate change affecting the country, meaningful rainfall is only expected in December. But those with irrigation facilities will begin their planting in October.

During last week’s annual general meeting SeedCo lamented the economic downturn caused by rising inflation, power cuts and fuel shortages among other challenges.
 
SeedCo plans to increase open market seed sales in Zimbabwe to about 80 percent from 50 percent and increase pricing flexibility in a highly volatile market.

Government sales accounted for half of volumes, limiting the group’s flexibility on price adjustments.

One of Africa’s largest seed producers remained exposed to losses accruing from payment delays given that government normally acquires supplies on credit terms under its import substitution programme Command Agriculture.

Crippling power outages are forcing the company to produce very little tonnage of seeds, causing seed companies to fall short of their target.

SeedCo recently said its winter cereal volumes in Zimbabwe are at 3,855metric tonnes, 32 percent lower than the 5,635metric tonnes achieved during the same period last year.

Though the government is targeting 210 000hectaresfor maize and 30 000ha for soya bean under the Presidential Input Program and a further 640 000 ha for maize and small grains under support for the vulnerable groups; this may not be achieved due to serious seed shortages.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakariya said: “We have held a series of meetings with all seed producers in the beginning of August and they assured us of enough seed for this season.

Currently seed packs are ranging from $210 per 10kg to $280 per 10kg depending on the variety of the seed, a price which very few farmers can afford.