Low Zim maize seed sales point to another poor harvest

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Zimbabwe could be heading for another poor harvest in the 2019/20 season after the country’s biggest maize seed producer SeedCo said it had recorded a 24% drop in sales for the 9 months to December 2019.

Zimbabwe is currently smarting from a poor 2018/19 harvest following a drought and cyclone that was experienced during the cropping period.

The drought left the country needing to import at least 800 tonnes to fend off hunger.

While Zimbabwe is currently getting assistance from the World Food Programme, which said it requires nearly 200 000 metric tonnes of food to assist the 4.1 million Zimbabweans it plans to target, such support might be needed for longer if SeedCo’s seed maize sales volume is to be considered.

Seedco, which in 2018 controlled 81% of Zimbabwe’s maize seed market, said on Monday that its sales were 24% lower than over the comparative period the previous year.

The seed house said the reduction in sales volumes, in both the 3rd quarter and the 9 months to 31 December 2019, was mainly due to the “low onset of the season and unfavourable weather forecasts which discouraged farmers from purchasing seed”.

It added that the negative impact of low disposable incomes on consumer demand was also a contributing factor.

SeedCo also blamed the Zimbabwean government’s reduced uptake as a contributing factor.

In the last couple of years, the Zimbabwean government was a big player in maize seed purchase through its command agriculture programme, which has since been scaled back amid efforts to contain spending by treasury.

SeedCo also blamed fuel shortages as having played a negative role on land preparation by farmers for the current summer season.

The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed company said the outlook remains highly unpredictable due to the current harsh economic environment.

“The company’s sales volumes are expected to close the current financial year lower than the prior year due to challenges mentioned above,” it said.