THE government has once again been caught flat-footed by the rainy season with revelations that less than 40% of the country’s maize seed requirement is available. Chances o
f improving the situation are being hampered by the critical shortage of foreign currency to import seed. The country has less than 32 000 tonnes of maize seed produced locally while the national requirement is 80 000 tonnes. Local producers have drastically scaled down operations due to the chaotic land reform programme and viability problems.
Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association managing director Vincent Gwarazimba confirmed yesterday that less than 40% of the country’s maize seed requirement was available and producers had scaled down production.
“That is exactly what it is – 32 000 tonnes is what is available and there is no company which has stocks of maize seed,” said Gwarazimba.
“There are no resources for seed production and the (new) farmers have no experience. There is also a lot of side-dealing affecting the sector,” he said.
Of the available quantity, government has secured 5 000 tonnes to support beneficiaries ofthe land reform program-me. Government had placed an order for 40 000 tonnes.
The other quantity of maize seed available is being sold to individuals.
“Government placed an order for 40 000 tonnes of maize seed mainly to assist newly-resettled farmers. However, only 5 000 tonnes have been secured,” said a source within the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture. “The nation has managed to produce 32 000 tonnes of maize seed.”
Agriculture minister Joseph Made yesterday switched off his cellphone when this paper called him. His secretary said that he was out of his office.
MDC secretary for agriculture Renson Gasela said the food crisis would worsen due to lack of seeds and other inputs.
“The situation is set to worsen, there is no doubt about it,” said Gasela. “Indeed, the quantity of maize seed available in the country is nothing if one views it from the point of view of the serious food crisis that we have been experiencing. The nation needs at least 80 000 tonnes of maize seed, yet only 32 000 tonnes are available.”
The available maize seed is enough to cover only 1 200 hectares of land, which in a good rainy season would yield less than 800 000 tonnes of maize. The country requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption.
Last year Zimbabwe produced less than 800 000 tonnes of maize.