Mujuru demanded 5 tonnes of seed maize from SeedCo


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Former army commander Solomon Mujuru demanded five tonnes of seed maize from SeedCo at a time when the company and the country were facing a massive shortfall.

The group chief executive of SeedCo Patrick Devenish said the country was facing a shortfall of 15 000 tonnes at the time.

He said the government had misled a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation by saying that it needed 50 000 tonnes of seed and already had 32 000 tonnes.

Growers had only produced 9 500 tonnes of seed maize and were likely to deliver only 4 600 to 6 000 to seed houses.

He said there was a thriving black market in seed maize which sold for US$450 to US$600 a tonne at the Mbare produce market against a controlled price of US$40 a tonne.

The cable did not explain why Devenish threw in the general’s name in the conversation with United States embassy officials.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE821, SEED SHORTAGE ONE MORE THREAT TO MAIZE PRODUCTION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE821

2008-09-11 16:13

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO0878

PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0821/01 2551613

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

P 111613Z SEP 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3422

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2066

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2279

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2399

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1676

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2032

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2453

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4885

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1548

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000821

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR G. GARLAND

AF/EPS FOR ANN BREITER

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

TREASURY FOR J. RALYEA AND T.RAND

COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

AFR/AA FOR KATE ALMQUIST AND FRANKLIN MOORE

AFR/SA FOR ELOKEN, JHARMON AND LDOBBINS

AFR/SD FOR DATWOOD AND HSUKIN

EGAT FOR DDODD, KBAUM, WCHANNELL, PSTEFFEN AND AMOUSHEY

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: EAGR SOCI PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: SEED SHORTAGE ONE MORE THREAT TO MAIZE PRODUCTION

IN ZIMBABWE

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (U) Zimbabwe is heading into the summer planting season

about one third short of needed seed maize. The past year’s

seed maize crop was poor due to uneven rainfall and

inadequate supply of inputs. In addition, price controls have

deterred farmers from growing the crop and delivering it to

the formal market. The private sector expects the government

to fill the seed shortfall with market-priced imports that

will invariably arrive too late. Under these circumstances,

expert opinion suggests the 2008/09 commercial maize harvest

could be the smallest since independence. Plant breeding

expertise is nevertheless still strong and the backbone of

Zimbabwe’s beleaguered seed industry. For their part, donors

plan to assist more than 270,000 households with agricultural

inputs this summer season. End Summary.

 

——————————————— ——–

Shortfall in Seed Maize as Planting Season Approaches

——————————————— ——–

 

2. (SBU) Zimbabwe has a shortfall of about 15,000 t of seed

maize out of the 40,000 t needed to grow enough maize to meet

domestic demand, according to Patrick Devenish, Group CEO of

Zimbabwe’s dominant and publicly quoted seed maize producer

Seed Co Limited. In a meeting with econoff on September 8,

Devenish discounted figures provide by the GOZ at an August

28 meeting of the FAO-led Agricultural Coordination Working

Group. At that meeting, the GOZ had announced that it needed

50,000 t of seed maize and had 32,000 t available in imports,

local production and carryover stock. Stanley Kanembirira,

Finance Manager of U.S.-owned Pioneer Hi-Bred Zimbabwe blamed

the lower than expected yield of seed maize on very wet

conditions during the planting season followed by low

rainfall in February/March; incessant power cuts for the

irrigated crop; late or non-receipt of fertilizer and

chemicals; fuel shortages; non-availability of farm labor due

to low wages; and less than anticipated subsidized funding

from government.

 

3. (SBU) Devenish added that price controls on seed maize

were a major disincentive to growing the crop and to selling

it to the seed houses. Seed Co estimated that its contracted

growers had reaped 9,500 t of seed maize but would deliver

only 4,600-6,000 t to the company; they were selling the rest

from the farm gate or at local markets for human consumption.

Illustrative of the extreme price distortions caused by

ill-conceived price controls, maize today is selling by the

bucket at Harare’s Mbare produce market for US$7.50-10 (60

buckets to the MT) or US$450-600/t, while the recently raised

controlled price of commercial maize is Z$4,500/MT (US$9 on

the parallel market today) and of seed maize Z$20,000/t

(roughly US$40).

 

——————————————— —————-

Next Year’s Maize Crop ) Possibly Smallest Since Independence

——————————————— —————-

 

HARARE 00000821 002 OF 003

 

 

 

4. (SBU) Devenish predicted that next year’s commercial maize

crop would be the smallest since independence, barring

perfect growing conditions. He expected the government to

awaken to the seed maize shortfall some time in November and

place last-minute orders from Zambia at market prices. The

seed would invariably arrive too late for optimal

early-December planting and high yield. Nor had the

government in the course of the year overcome any of the

non-weather related constraints of the 2007/08 growing season

noted by Kanembirira. In addition, Devenish noted that yield

also depended on who got the available seed–“master farmers”

or marginal-yielding growers. Without further comment he

said General Solomon Mujuru had asked him that day to see to

it that he got five tons of seed maize this year.

 

——————————–

Dim Medium Term Outlook, as Well

——————————–

 

5. (SBU) Devenish cautioned against dependence on seed maize

from Zambian growers, as they were shifting out of the crop

and into much more profitable back-to-back plantings of

winter wheat and summer soy. Also, he pointed out that,

contrary to common belief, seed maize was not generic and

could not be imported from just anywhere; it was bred for

specific conditions. Devenish called Seed Co’s position in

Zimbabwe unsustainable. The local operation produced half of

the group’s product by volume, but would contribute only

US$100,000 in profit against US$5 million from the group’s

Zambian operation this year. The backbone of Seed Co

Zimbabwe was its world-renowned Rattray Arnold Research

Station outside Harare. If Seed Co began to lose the plant

breeding staff at that facility, Devenish said he could no

longer defend maintaining group headquarters in Zimbabwe. For

now, the company was fighting skills flight by providing

research staff frequent foreign-currency-paid training and

instruction opportunities throughout Africa.

 

———————–

Donors Commit to Inputs

———————–

 

6. (U) Although donors will not be able to overcome the

effect of perverse incentives, they will provide assistance

to a significant number of subsistence farmers. According to

the Food and Agriculture Organization, NGOs, through donor

funding, have put in place plans to assist more than 270,000

households (approximately 1.3 million people) in 41 districts

with agricultural inputs in the 2008/9 summer season.

207,000 households are targeted to receive seeds and/or

fertilizers, 50,000 households will receive training and

inputs for conservation agriculture, and 17,100 households

will be assisted through seed fairs and input voucher

programs.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

HARARE 00000821 003 OF 003

 

 

 

7. (U) As the rainy season approaches, the country is

woefully unprepared for the 2008/09 growing season. Any

chance that Zimbabwe could generate a supply side response

this season to a rapidly implemented shift in agricultural

policy is slipping with every passing day of political

stalemate. End Comment.

MCGEE

 

(12 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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