Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Seed maize processing companies have increased the price of the commodity as they seek to recoup the increasing costs of producing different hybrids, an official confirmed yesterday.
A survey by The Herald yesterday revealed that the price of a 10kg bag of seed which cost between US$21 and US$24 last season had risen to between US$27,50 and US$31.
A 25kg bag of a long season variety now costs between US$68 and US$113, up from around US$57 to US$96 the previous farming season.
A five-kilogramme pack now costs between US$13 and US$15, while a two-kilogramme pack costs between US$5 and US$7.
However, agriculture analysts argued that the move was likely to put a dent on the quality and quantity of projected yields in the forthcoming cropping season as the farmers would either reduce hectarage or use uncertified seeds.
Riding on this year’s 1,4 million tonnes produce — thanks to President Mugabe’s inputs support scheme — farmers were expected to produce more during the 2014/15 season.
Zimbabwe Seed Traders Association chairman Mr Walter Chigodora confirmed that seed houses hiked the prices with varying percentages.
“Maize seed prices have changed, affected by the official grain price prevailing, which necessitated a seed grower price change to avoid side marketing,” he said. “The producer price paid to farmers has always been higher than the price of commercial grain.
“It used to range between US$600 and US$900 per tonne and I cannot tell the exact increase in the seed maize producer prices,” he said.
However, following Government’s increase of the producer price of maize to US$390 per tonne of maize, many seed farmers started demanding more from seed houses.
Seed houses could not comment yesterday, saying they were still making consultations.
Mr Chigodora said maize uptake started as early as May this year when tobacco sales were still in progress.
“Currently, sales are normal, farmers await the coming of the rains and to select the suitable varieties needed for the season.
“Farmers in low rainfall areas should go for short season varieties while those in high rainfall areas should select the medium and longer season varieties that have greater yield potential which should not be planted after November,” he said.
He said long season varieties had greater yield potential but they should not be planted late as this would affect the grain filling stage.
Mr Chigodora said sales were still depressed as some farmers did not have disposable income while others were waiting for the distribution of the US$161 million Presidential Inputs Scheme which are set to benefit 1,6 million households.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for crops, Cde Davis Marapira, said Government was still mobilising inputs for the Presidential Scheme and this year farmers were also going to get cow-peas, soya-beans and cotton seed.
“We will start distributing the inputs beginning of November and we have included varieties of crops.
“The farmers will also get fertilisers and lime,” he said.
Government has, however, indicated to some seed companies that it would set off amounts owed to them against their tax liabilities but may still have to use other means to fully clear the debts.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust, Mrs Depinah Nkomo, said the increase in the price of seed would worsen the situation for the already heavily-burdened farmers.
She said the move would reduce the profit margins for the farmers.
“We do not have capital and any increase in the price of inputs will impact negatively on farmers and agricultural production, particularly maize.
“The private sector, especially millers who use the products from farming, should be funding farmers. We want to produce food but sometimes we are forced to diversify to other crops that are more viable,” she said.
Mutoko farmer Mr Tapfuma Katurura said he failed to buy 30kg of seed that he wanted.
“After selling my tomatoes I thought I could by 30kg of seed maize, but I failed. I do not know what next,” said Mr Katurura.
Another Beatrice farmer Mrs Sophie Chitemerere said: “We do not understand what is going on. We thought prices will be stable, given that we are now using US dollars.”