Co-operatives farmers in Rwanda have resorted to using low yielding traditional varieties to avoid major losses, as seed distribution delays persist.

According to the agriculture industry, companies licensed to supply seeds are awarded contracts late and the effect spirals to farmers.

“The government needs to review the process, because at the moment bureaucracy in procuring hybrid seeds causes delays that affect the farmers,” James Osore, the country representative for Kenya Seed company told Rwanda Today.

Kenya, Zambia and Uganda are some of the major suppliers of maize, wheat and bean hybrid seeds to Rwanda.

“By the time we are notified by the government about which type of seeds to supply and the quantity, it is late and farmers have already prepared for the season,” said Mr Osore.

The firms added that seed supply for Season B, which starts between January and February, is already behind schedule because the procurement process started late.

“We usually get contracts to supply seeds in August, a month after the start of the financial year. But, August is too late because the planting season begins around January or February,” said a seed supplier who did not want to be named. He added it can take up to five weeks to get import permits, quality certifications and other required documents.

Some farmer co-operatives told Rwanda Today that they resorted to using low yielding traditional varieties to avoid major losses.

Seraphine Uwitonze, the manager of Ubumwe Co-operative, which owns a 44-hectare maize farm in Gatonde sector, Ngoma District, said he has used both high and low-yield maize varieties because the preferred hybrids did not get to the farm on time. “Our expected yield will be lower,” said Uwitonze.

Agricultural experts argue that mixing hybrid seeds with traditional ones affects the yield and quality of harvests.

“We have been working with farmers and the government to see how use of hybrid seeds can be adopted on a national scale, instead of using traditional seeds,” said Kent Short, a consultant for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

He added that AGRA’s vision is to see Rwanda and other African countries develop the capacity to produce their own hybrid seeds. This would solve the supply problems, which force farmers to use low-yielding traditional varieties.

Telesphore Ndabamenye, the head of Crop Production and Food Security at the Rwanda Agricultural Board said procurement of seeds suffered from bureaucratic delays at the Ministry of Finance, which manages the budget.

However, he said the problem had been resolved after a meeting between the agriculture and finance ministries agreed that from 2018, funds for procurement of seeds would be made available ahead of the national budget. This means that seed suppliers will have a procurement cycle of at least four months.

“Funds for seed procurement should now be available by March at the latest and suppliers awarded contracts by April,” Ndabamenye said.

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