1 November 2009

Tanzania: Arusha Vies To Become Largest Tropical Vegetable Seeds Producer

Arusha — Farmers craving for Tropical vegetable hybrid seeds now have a reason to smile, thanks to the world's leading firms for pumping 600,000 Euros nearly 1bn/- into seed breeding near Arusha.

Two global leading vegetable seed companies--Rijk Zwaan of Netherlands and East West Seed of Thailand are behind the--joint venture firm, 'Afrisem', which could go down in history as one of the largest and ambitious tropical vegetable seed breeding projects in East Africa.

A 20-hector-breeding farm in Dolly Estate, nearly10 km East-south of Usa-River in Meru, is expected to turn Arusha into the largest tropical vegetable seeds producer and exporter in two years.

Rijk Zwaan firm specializes in breeding and supplying vegetable seeds for the commercial vegetable industry around the world, while East West seed company is the world's leader in tropical vegetable breeding.

"Afrisem seek to provide hungry African vegetable growers with dedicated hybrid varieties and top quality seeds for an affordable price," says the firm's partner Director, Simon Groot during the project inauguration last week.

He further explained that Afrisem would develop high productive, disease resistant and tasty varieties of specific African vegetable crops.

Groot is buoyant that hybrid vegetable production, with its high value, could fly millions of small growers from their current status of abject poverty to the middle class, with a good income.

"At the moment the Afrisem breeding program covers African tomato, peppers and eggplants, but later on we shall consider fruits," he explained.

Currently there is no other hybrid breeding program in vegetable crops dedicated to the tropical African market.

Experience in Europe and Asia has shown that variety improvement in combination with education of growers--Seeds and Service-- is essential for the development of a competitive vegetable industry.

In the past 40 years the supply of vegetables per capita has increased substantially in the developed world.

In Africa however the supply of vegetables did not increase and remained less than 50 kg of vegetable per person per year.

The average yield of vegetable in Africa in the period under review also did not improve and remained less than 5 tonnes per ha due to lack of hybrid seeds, while the Asian yield has increased to an average 12 tonnes per ha.

Inaugurating the ambitious seed breeding site, Agriculture, Food Security and cooperatives, Deputy Minister, Dr. David Mathayo said production of vegetables in the country is still low and mostly practiced by small growers for domestic markets.

"The reason behind is non-existence of a vegetable breeding programme, use of poor quality seeds, use of low quality seeds which prone to pests and diseases" Dr.Mathayo noted.

Deputy Minister however announced that Tanzania is in the final stage to join the International Union for Plant Protection of Varieties (UPOV) with an eye to enhance the international recognition of vegetable seed actors.

"Let me take this opportunity to wish you all best of luck, the Government assures you a full support" Dr. Mathayo stressed.

"We believe that having a well-functioning plant breeder's rights system can help us. Plant breeders' rights protect the creator of the variety on one hand, but on the other hand make that variety freely available to all breeders in the world" chipped in the Partner Director, Anton Van Doornmalen.

Arusha Regional Commissioner, Isidore Shirima said as the project comes at the right time as the country struggling to attain green revolution.

"As we are struggling to realize a green revolution, the quality seeds question, is very critical and I am proud that Arusha is going to be the largest seeds producers" Shirima explained.

Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) Executive Director, Jacqueline Mkindi said the vegetable seed breeding scheme will take the horticultural sector into the next level.

The industry earns the country more than US$130 million, and employs more than 30,000 Tanzanians per annum, however far less as compared to Kenya which earns more than US$1.7 billions per year and creates employment for over 500,000 Kenyans, despite the fact that Tanzania has more potential than Kenya.

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