Zimbabwe’s largest seed producer, Seed Co Limited is investing US$10 million towards development of seed-drying facilities to expedite delivery of seed to the market and reduce losses.
The seed-drying technology, to be piloted in Zimbabwe first before being introduced in Seed Co’s other regional markets, is expected to be commissioned by 2020.
Seed Co said there has been some delays in dry down of maize seed and an increase in diseases due to late start of the rains as a result of climate change .
The state-of-the-art drying facilities should speed up the process and reduce time for dry down by 50 percent.
“We have been experiencing late rains which have affected dry down of maize,” said group chief executive officer Morgan Nzwere in an interview on the sidelines of the group’s financial results presentation.
“As a result, we end up having seed late into the market which is why we are having dryers to try and speed up the process. We are seeing increased diseases because of the changing climate. Climate change has had a lot of impact on the industry such that the procurement of dryers is a necessity so as to bring seed early in the market,” he said.
To further mitigate the effects of climate change, Mr Nzwere said the company was working on strategies such as introduction of early maturing varieties.
Through research, the group approved for internal release and advancement of 11 new maize hybrids across maturity profiles focusing on yield performance, cob rot resistance and green mealie native traits.
In South Africa, where development of a research centre nears completion, four new maize seed hybrids were also approved for internal release.
“We have come up with new seed varieties that mature early. For example there was the four series and now there is the three series which matures earlier and therefore requires less rain,” said Mr Nzwere.
This is in addition to increased focus on small grains, although their uptake still remains low as maize continues to be the preferred grain.
Even farmers in dry areas such as Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces still prefer maize as opposed to the drought resistant small grains.
Small grains are seen as the answer to food security in Zimbabwe, especially at a time climate change threats on agriculture continue. Small grains thrive where there is little rain and agriculture experts are encouraging farmers to take them up and cushion the estimated 1,1 million.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) most of the small grains produced in Zimbabwe are consumed by the producing household or sold on informal markets, mainly for traditional beer brewing. The Zimbabwe Policy Economic Analysis and Research Unit (Zeparu) also notes that small grains production has been in a constant decline since 1988.
The yields have barely gone past 200 000 tonnes since 1998.
Scientists have therefore called on farmers to increase production of the drought resistant grains to alleviate hunger.