Maize farmers are counting losses caused by supply of fake seeds by local dealers.
Although farmers say the agro dealers were able to produce large quantities of seeds and get them to farmers on time for the season, the seeds for a number of crops were of poor quality.
“A lot of the seeds distributed by some agro dealers were sub-standard, and exposed many farmers to losses, especially maize farmers. Some maize processors rejected the maize while others bought at lower prices,” said Munyakazi Jean Paul, legal representative of Imbaraga, a lobby of all farmers in Rwanda.
He said the hybrid seeds produced locally are still largely of poor quality compared with imported ones, calling on the government and the private sector to step up research and improve seed varieties. “It was not only maize seeds but even seeds for fruits were of poor quality, and for fruits even the produced seeds are still in low quantities,” he said. Mr Munyakazi also called on the government to come up with a fund that can support farmers who have suffered from losses under such circumstances.
Farmers across the country get these seeds at a subsidised cost, which is usually passed on to the government. Farmers and some agriculture experts expressed concerns about the private sector taking over such a sensitive role of seed multiplication and distribution at a time when there were capacity gaps on the side of the agro-dealers.
The agro dealers for instance, don’t have the required infrastructures, like warehouses, processors and labs to be used in the seed multiplication process.
The 12 private sector players who had been given the tender have however managed to distribute the seeds on time.
RAB defended the move, saying the government was operating at a loss, and that it could not recover what was put in seed multiplication and distribution.
Responding to claims of substandard seeds, Charles Bucagu, deputy director general of RAB, said they heard some complaints in places like Rwamagana, but the issue was not countrywide.
“I am not ruling out that there could be some agro-dealers selling substandard seeds, we heard a few complaints, it is not a general problem, there is need for investigations to know which varieties of maize,"he said.