Zimbabwe faces acute seed shortage


Poor planning and empty promises by the government could derail the country’s agrarian reform as the country is currently short of seed for virtually all crops except soya beans.

Though the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement together with the Zimbabwe Seed Trader Association estimate that there has been an almost 70 percent increase in the annual demand for maize seed, from the 1990s average of 35 000 tonnes to 60 000 tonnes today, the government has done nothing to ensure that this seed is available.

Current estimates are that there are only 20 000 tonnes of hybrid maize seed available. There is a further 3 000 tonnes of open pollinated maize seed, leaving a deficit of 37 000 tonnes.

The government announced plans to import 30 000 tonnes but industry sources say it only has enough foreign currency to import 14 700 tonnes.

The shortage of maize seed has resulted in a thriving black market in seed with the seed selling for almost double the price on the open market. Seed that should sell for $43 500 is going to $83 000.

There is a wide belief that speculators cleaned the shelves of all seed and are now selling it on the black market, a trend that has swept the country since the introduction of price controls.

And ironically while the country is facing an acute shortage of seed, the government continues to restrict quantities individuals can import to 50 kgs. But interestingly though, most of the seed being imported from Botswana comes from Zimbabwe.

According to the Famine Early Warning System Network, the country has a deficit of 1 300 tonnes of sorghum hybrid seed. It has only 700 tonnes when it needs 2 000. It, however, has 1 600 tonnes of open pollinated sorghum seed.

It has only 380 tonnes of pearl millet seed when it requires 1 500 tonnes and 500 tonnes of groundnut seed when it requires 2 500 tonnes. Sugar beans is worst affected. The country needs 2 700 tonnes of seed but has only180 tonnes.

It requires 6 000 tonnes of soya bean seed but has 7 400 tonnes, leaving a surplus of 1 400 tonnes.


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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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