Arusha. Seed dealers are urging the government to set aside enough land for the production of improved seeds.
They said failure to introduce a land banking system specifically for the purpose was a drawback for the seed sector. “We have land for industrial parks, for construction of shopping malls and skyscrapers but not for seed production,” lamented Mr Bob Shuma, the executive director of Tanzania Seed Traders Association (Tasta). He said the concept of land banks should be introduced in the agricultural production system as it was key in attracting investors. With increased the use of hybrid seeds by smallholder and commercial farmers alike, the demand has gone up yet local production cannot meet the demand.
Mr Shuma made the appeal over the weekend during the visit by the minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda, to Seed Co Tanzania, an Arusha-based seeds producer.
“The challenge facing seeds producers is absence of land allocated specifically for seeds production”, he pointed out. He promised Tasta, an Arusha-based organisation, would continue to engage the government and its relevant bodies on the matter. The private sector-led body was established in 2002 to spearhead development of the seed industry in collaboration with the government and other players. He said investors, local and foreign, would not hesitate to inject their cash in the production of seeds if they were assured of land.
Availability of land could be assured through land banking, a process of aggregating parcels of land for future sale or development. Mr Shuma said Tanzania continues to be a net importer of seeds because of a drawback in land leasing, among other challenges. The ministry of Agriculture says by April this year a total of 50,589 tonnes of seeds have been used in the country; 27,339 locally produced and 15,758 imported. Statistics often released by multiple sources indicate that the annual demand of seeds in Tanzania stands at 212,274 tonnes with only 52,700 tonnes available. Proponents of the arrangement insist that a land bank for the production of seeds would enable the country to attract more investors.
Speaking to the management of Seed Co Limited, the minister said the government was determined to turn around seed production to meet demand.
Besides doubling allocation of the budget funds during the 2021/22 financial year to Sh11 billion, 13 seed breeding and multiplication farms would also be upgraded.
The farms which are under the state-run Agriculture Seed Agency (Asa) will be revamped with modern irrigation structures and other facilities.
“We need to as well diversify our seed production to cover more key crops as the demand rises”, he pointed out.
The government would also extend the necessary support to the local producers of seeds so as to enable the country to become a net exporter come 2025.
Clive Mugadza, Seed Co Limited regional managing director said the Arusha-based firm currently exports hybrid maize seeds to the East African region.