Livingstone Marufu Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE expects to start commercial rice production in the next season or two as the country moves to cut annual rice importation expenditure of over $80 million, a senior Government official has said.
Government together with Seed Co are carrying out final feasibility studies of rice growing and are touring various rice growing countries to acquaint themselves with technology and viable methods of growing the cereal.
Lands, Agriculture, Rural Resettlement Minister Perence Shiri said it is high time the country should start growing rice to save foreign currency.
“Zimbabwe is a net importer of rice and spends about $80 million annually to import the cereal.
“We can cut our import bill by growing commercial rice locally and I am very happy that Seed Co are here (Rattray Arnold research station) and are working towards the commercial seed rice production which will see many farmers starting to grow rice at a commercial scale,” said Minister Shiri.
A team of experts from his ministry have already gone to Egypt to familiarise with rice production in one of Africa’s largest producer.
Preliminary research has shown that the country can produce rice using hybrid varieties without any problem.
New rice varieties need a lot of water in the first two months and the country has sufficient water to support rice production.
Seed Co has successfully tested their seed rice in Pakistan and other countries and the biggest trial is to ensure whether those seeds will successfully grow well or not locally.
According to research carried out in other countries, farmers have improved average rice production to almost 10 tonnes per hectare using hybrid varieties. And Seed Co intends to bring that expertise to local farmers.
Seed Co managing director Denias Zaranyika said: “We are certain that commercial rice production will be a success in Zimbabwe and currently we are still carrying out a number assessments before kick starting the programme. We will definitely be providing seeds for the programme and we are at an advanced stage to complete the job.”
Seed Co has started growing rice at its research station and soon could avail seeds to many farmers.
Another local firm Life Brand Agriculture Services is planning to put 10 000 hectares of rice in Masvingo — a project set to showcase Tokwe-Mukosi Dam’s humongous impact on farming.
Life Brand wants to produce over 300tonnes of rice domestically and establishing foreign markets like the Middle East.
It has three good varieties of rice; the first was sourced from Malawi and the other two from China.
Rice has become a priority crop in Africa with many countries looking at expanding production of the crop to achieve food self-sufficiency.