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August 25, 2008

Tanzanian agriculture minister blames low productivity on farmer-saved seed

According to the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives of Tanzania, Mr Stephen Wasira, more than 90 per cent of farmers in the country use recycled seeds, which invariably have very low production.

Mr Wasira said this when he opened a workshop on seed industry development in Tanzania. He said that the requirements of improved seed in the country is about 100,000 metric tons per annum, while actual sales are less than 13,000 tons annually.

Citing an example, the minister said that while about 9,080 tons of maize seed are planted each year, only 5,100 tones of improved maize are sold annually. Low use of improved seed in the country, said Wasira, is responsible for the low levels of investment in the seed industry, a weak distribution and marketing system, and higher seed prices. Others problems are a weak extension system, lack of credit facilities, inadequate seed quality control and ineffective application of official regulations.

According to Mr Wasira, any endeavour to increase agricultural and production would be a useless attempt without the availability of improved planting materials. He added that through the use of improved seed and other crop husbandry practices, farmers could increase farm productivity, and eventually alleviate poverty.

The minister explained that despite the strategic position of agriculture in the country’s economy, its performance has been low, registering growth rates of four per cent to five per cent per annum during the past years.

“For the agricultural sector to significantly contribute to the economic growth and poverty reduction, it must grow by at least 10 per cent annually. This would contribute to the realisation of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty and food insecurity by 2015,” says Mr Wasira.

The government has put in place some measures to improve the quality seeds production, including the liberalisation of the seed industry in 1990, in order to allow the private sector to participate fully in the production, distribution and marketing of seeds in the country.

The enactment of the Plant Breeders’ Right Legislation in 2002 to guarantee incentives to plant breeders in the public and private sector is aimed to increase efforts in the development of new crop varieties for use by farmers.

Efforts to improve seeds production have also been made through the establishment of the Tanzania Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI), established under the Seed Act of 2003, with the mandate to enforce the seed Law.

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