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Is Rwanda finally on course to end the importation of seeds?

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After years of spending billions of francs on seed imports, Rwanda now seems to be edging closer towards self-reliance in seed production, according to the latest official data.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the country met its target of maize, wheat and soya bean seeds, locally, in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

In his budget speech on Monday, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Uzziel Ndagijimana, assured the nation that starting from Agricultural Season A, which begins in September this year, there will be no more importation of seeds.

The announcement comes two years after the National Leadership Retreat of 2018 resolved to reach self-reliance in local production of seeds within three years.

The annual target for seed production in the 2018/19 fiscal year was achieved at only 31 percent.

In the same year, the country spent a staggering Rwf6.5 billion on the importation of 3,579 metric tonnes of seeds, contributing to the huge trade deficit.

Now, the latest figures show that in 2019/20, Rwanda produced 1,750 metric tonnes of maize seeds and 258 metric tonnes of wheat.

At least 290 metric tonnes of Soybean seeds were produced, well above the annual target.

According to the Ministry of Finance, 192 metric tonnes of bean seeds were produced in 2019/20 against a target of 150 metric tonnes while 160 metric tonnes of rice were produced against a target of 150 metric tonnes.

Increasing agriculture and livestock productivity is one of the country’s priorities in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

And the government banks on improved locally produced agriculture inputs to achieve its ambitions.

“We set a target to stop importation of subsidized seeds which are maize, wheat and soya bean seeds by 2021,” Charles Bucagu, the Deputy Director-General of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), said.

Currently, he said, wheat and soya bean seeds are all locally produced.

Local production of maize seeds is at 80 per cent and the remaining percentage will have been covered by September whereby we will stop importation, he added.

New agency to inspect quality of seeds

In a recent report by Auditor General, it was indicated that RAB incurred a loss of Rwf128.6 million due to poor management of locally produced seeds acquired and stored at some stations.

This loss was associated with stored seeds that lost their germination capacity and are sold for consumption at a price lower than acquisition cost.

To deal with the issue, Bucagu explained that measures are being taken to avoid recurrent loss.

“Even though seeds are processed and multiplied; there is still a lack of capacity in terms of storing in better conditions. Meanwhile, seeds multipliers are using our warehouses as they move to invest in their own facilities,” he said.

He added that a new agency, Rwanda Inspection and Competitiveness Agency (RICA), will be in charge of quality seeds inspection to ensure farmers use standard seeds.

Under the national budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year, increasing agriculture productivity was allocated Rwf122.4 billion.

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