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Maize seed shortage looms

Augustine Mukaro

A SERIOUS maize-seed shortage is looming in the coming 2003/4 farming season as less than half of the required seed is forecast to be delivered to seed houses by newly-r

esettled farmers, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.

Agriculture experts this week said land under maize seed was slashed by over 70% over the past three years under the land reform programme. The quality of the seed could also have been compromised as new players have struggled to meet stringent standards of maize seed production.

“Under normal circumstances around 700 hectares would be put under maize seed each season,” a seed expert said.

“Last season an estimated 200 hectares of maize seed was planted and between 10 000 and 15 000 tonnes of seed should be delivered to seed houses.”

Zimbabwe requires between 35 000 and 45 000 tonnes of maize seed annually. Demand is likely to increase dramatically in the coming season as resettled farmers come on stream.

Experts have warned that poor seed quality could also affect supplies.

“Most new farmers did not comply with seed production requirements, especially maintaining a 400m gap between maize fields to avoid cross pollination,” the expert said.

One of the maize seed farmers and National Tested Seeds owner Joseph Kennedy was forced off his land as his farms fell victim to the chaotic land reform programme

Kennedy owned Parklands, Lindale and Sigaro farms in the Norton farming area, which stopped production in 2001 when war veterans invaded them.

The farms used to produce seeds for almost all crops grown in Zimbabwe ranging from maize, wheat, soyabeans, pumpkins and vegetables. The seeds were processed, packaged and marketed under the National Tested Seeds banner.

Last season government had to import maize seed from South Africa and other countries to augment local supplies.

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