Government, through the ministry of agriculture, recently announced that it had significantly cut the subsidies extended to importers of maize seeds as a way of encouraging farmers to buy locally developed seeds.
According to information from Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), locally-developed maize seeds are subsidized at 79 per cent, while the subsidies for imported seeds have been reduced to 40 per cent.
Next year, these subsidies on imported maize seeds will be rescinded altogether.
This is a good gesture that all stakeholders along the value chain should play their role in ensuring that all farmers use locally-produced seeds to cut down the foreign exchange that is being unnecessarily spent on importing seeds that can be locally obtained.
Available information indicates that our economy loses up to Rwf6 billion every planting season on importing seeds from different countries.
Salvaging this forex could have been behind the directive made at the retreat of senior government leaders of 2018 resolving that within three years, the country should be self-sufficient in seed production.
It should therefore not stop at maize seeds but also include other seeds, like soyabeans and wheat, because, despite the loss of foreign exchange, there are other challenges that come with relying on foreign markets for seeds, including delays in delivery.
More effort should also be put in awareness for farmers about the availability of locally produced seeds because information on ground seems to suggest insufficient information, and many are still buying expensively the imported maize seeds.
It is only through cutting these incentives towards importation of seeds that government will be able to achieve the target of self-reliance in terms of seed production, as stated by the Auditor General in his 2018/2019 report.
RAB should work with agriculture extension officers and farmers’ cooperatives to make sure this information is adequately disseminated to the farmers because information on ground seems to suggest that some distributors are taking advantage of this information loophole to dupe farmers into buying imported seeds, and expensively.