17 December 2013

Tanzania: Cotton Experts Dispel Fears On De-Linted Seeds Germination

EXPERTS from various cotton-growing districts in the country have now rubbished fears over the germination of certified cotton seeds distributed for planting this season.

Speaking to 'Daily News', the experts said germination depended on suitable weather conditions and the few who are having trouble could be mainly because they planted without adhering to proper planting procedure. "This year, we have supplied farmers with delinted seeds and most have started planting.

To a keen farmer after training on the handling and planting the seeds, they have no problem and their response is great so far," said Ibrahim Msigwa, a Cotton Field Officer in Ihanamilo, Geita.

The few who have not followed instructions provided are the ones facing germination difficulties. The seeds themselves have no problem," he added. According to Dayton Chelahani, another cotton inspector in Pandagichiza, Shinyanga, all 60 cotton farmers under him have successfully started the germination and planting process with no hitches.

"I expect them to produce more quality cotton this season now that his farmers are using de-linted seeds. At first they were resistant since they lacked proper training on the seeds and some planted the seeds too deep into the ground which resulted in little germination, but after a demonstration in germinating their response was overwhelming," he added.

"Here in Chato, 52 out 90 farmers have collected de-linted seeds and there having no problems with germinating them, said Charles Ndebalema, another cotton field officer based in Chato.

Contract farming has recently received a shot in the arm after the government issued a statement through the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Christopher Chiza to announce a 4.8bn/- subsidy that will enable farmers to buy quality cotton seeds at 600/- per kilo instead of 1,200/-.

Cotton inspectors, however, cited that farmers were planting the seeds too far away from each other from the recommended distance, depths or too many seeds in each hole, which they say could have resulted in a low germination count for some farmers.

"On the other hand, instructions on the packaging could be confusing to farmers who are using the certified seeds for the first time," another field officer said. To counter this, we set up a nursery to demonstrate to farmers the process of planting the delinted seeds and we have achieved positive responses and feedback from farmers.

They were speaking a week after councillors from various wards in Sengerema lodged complaints to district authorities over poor germination of the seeds and threatened to drag to court, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng. Christopher Chiza, who campaigned for the contract farming system.

Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) acting Managing Director, Gabriel Mwalo, has admitted to have received the complaints from farmers and that there is immediate efforts taken to deal with the issues, including supplying alternative seeds, educating farmers and surveying the areas with claims.

"Since last Saturday, a team of experts from Ukiriguru Agricultural Research Institute, Quton Tanzania Limited and TCB has been surveying the areas said to have the problem in order to establish if the problem exists and what might be the genuine reason," said Mr Mwalo.

He also said the team will follow-up closely on whether farmers have enough education about handling and planting the seeds. According to him, another team of trainers will be sent to farmers to give immediate class about handling and planting delinted seeds.

According to Quton Limited General Manager, Tariro Sithole sampling and testing is done during seed processing using a continuous random system, which ensures a high quality seed sample is obtained for every batch. This means that before we dispatch to farmers its quality is confirmed.

"Germination issues could occur if the seeds were rained on while on transit, incorrect handling by suppliers or farmers, planting seeds at inaccurate depths or too close together, just to mention a few," said Dr Everlene Lukunge from Ukiriguru.

An investigative team of experts are currently in the field as we speak and we shall have known as early next week conclusively once their report is presented," she added.

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