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Seed crisis looms

Augustine Mukaro/Conrad Dube

ZIMBABWE might not produce even a third of its food requirements in the 2004/5 season judging by the farming inputs available, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.

Zimbabwe’s largest maize seed producers, Seed Co and Pannar, revealed to a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture on Tuesday that a paltry 28 000 tonnes of seed were available for the market from the two producers. Zimbabwe requires 100 000 tonnes of maize seed to meet demand for its commercial, resettlement and communal farmers.

Seed Co managing director Dennis Zaranyika said around 24 000 tonnes of seed were expected from his company. He said Seed Co would be importing 19 000 tonnes from neighbouring countries to supplement local stocks.

Pannar director Temba Nkatazo said 4 000 tonnes of seed were available for the market this year.

“We will be importing 12 000 tonnes from South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia,” Nkatazo said.

This means the country is likely to face a shortage of about 41 000 tonnes of seed.

Seed production has slumped over the past three years since government embarked on its chaotic land reform programme. Most of the new farmers lack resources and skills to grow seed.

ZFC and Windmill, the two major manufacturers and distributors of fertiliser in the country, told the committee around 33 500 tonnes of compound D was in stock but that there was no ammonium nitrate.

The country requires an estimated 300 000 tonnes of each of the fertilisers annually.

The situation could be worsened by a record low hectarage that has been prepared for the 2004/5 summer cropping season. Farming experts who carried out a survey recently said less than 420 000 hectares of land had been prepared for planting compared to 1,3 million hectares normally put under crop.

The survey by agricultural experts said the fall in land planted would be exacerbated by the high degree of uncertainty prevailing in the sector. There are also reports of a possible El Nino phenomenon that could affect rainfall patterns in the region.

Hectarage in the commercial farming sector has been in decline since the government embarked on the land reform programme in 2000.

Planted land in resettled areas could also decline as government evicts A1 settlers to make way for A2 farmers.

The survey said the 2004/5 season could be the worst in Zimbabwe’s agricultural history.

The country’s sole manufacturer of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, Sable Chemicals, temporarily stopped production in August because of a labour dispute and also because of shortages of foreign currency to import raw materials. Officials at Sable yesterday said production at the factory was now at 60% but still far below demand, which peaks around the planting season.

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