10 October 2017

Rwanda: Government to Phase Out Importation of Seeds

Photo: Timothy Kisambira/New Times
Farmers winnow soya to remove the chaff in Kabarondo in Munaga Sector, Kayonza District.

With effect from 2018, the Government will not buy soya seeds from outside the country and will, by the end of the next year, completely halt importation of wheat.

The development was revealed by the Director-General of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, shortly after appearing before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer queries regarding 2015/16 Auditor-General's report.

Bagabe said the Government was channelling its focus on developing local seed production as a long term measure.

"We have a 2017-2020 Seed System Strategy and we have a timeline. We intend to have completely stopped importing the hybrid seeds but that doesn't mean that we are stopping whoever wants to do it," he said.

"We are focusing on self-sufficiency and hoping that by 2021, we should be having locally generated seeds, mainly for maize, wheat and soya. With wheat, we should be ready to stop importing by the end of 2018, but for soya, we may not be importing any next year."

Currently, the country's biggest seed import is maize (from Zambia), wheat from Kenya and soya from Zimbabwe. In Season 17B, Rwanda imported about 500 metric tonnes and this season, the country imported about 300 metric tonnes of wheat. For Soya, in 17B, 200 metric tonnes were imported.

Bagabe said to phase out the importation of maize seeds - which take the bulk of the imports -, the Government was investing heavily in local seed producers. An estimated 18 per cent of the hybrid maize seeds is imported while 82 per cent, which falls under the Open Pollinated Varieties, is locally generated.

"I agree that developing our own hybrid takes a reasonable number of years but the great news is that we now have got our own 10 hybrids from our own research laboratory at RAB. Ten varieties are of wheat and four are of soya. We are slowly getting there," he said.

Investing in research

Earlier before the committee, MP Cecile Murumunawabo had advised RAB to come up with a system that will track funds meant for research.

"You need someone to do budget tracking so that the money that is allocated to research is safeguarded and invested in exactly that," she said.

MP Theodomir Niyonsenga advised RAB to follow the Cameroon example and train its own agronomists as part of ways to get to their ambition to be self-reliant.

"How many agronomists do we have in this country? Can't we provide them with intensive training programmes and take advantage of their knowledge? Cameroon did this and in a short time, the country was reaping big from it," he said.

Bagabe said that a research strategy is in place to boost the capacity of almost 200 researchers registered under RAB.

"Our budget has been going up and we got Rwf1.3 billion for research in the year 2016/2017. The Government has given priority to research. This fiscal year, we have over Rwf4 billion and if you compare to the previous years, there has been a significant increase," he said.

The Government has also committed Rfw1.8 billion for upgrading research infrastructure, including laboratories and seed stores, but reasonable investment has also been put into capacity building terms of in-house training.

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