Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed entity Seed Co Limited, is in discussions with Government to revive commercial rice production in the country in a move that is expected to save the country as much as $150 million in foreign currency.
This comes after the demand for rice drastically increased to over 250 000 tonnes last year from 50 000 tonnes in 2010.
Changing tastes and consumer options have seen increased preference for rice as a substitute for maize.
Currently, Government has already identified areas of rice growing across the country and want to execute the proposed plan.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, told Business Weekly that the plan came after President Robert Mugabe saw that rice consumption has increased over the years.
“Having seen that rice consumption is fast dominating the local populace we have designed a plan to start growing commercial rice. As we speak, we are in discussions with Seed Co to resume commercial rice production in the country so that we can save foreign currency. We are spending a lot of foreign currency to buy rice from South Africa.
“Seed Co is still evaluating the cost of producing seed rice and also touring rice producing nations such as Malawi, Thailand and China among other nations to appreciate all the processes involved in seed rice producing matrix,” said Dr Made.
Another local firm Life Brand Agriculture Services is also planning to put 10 000 hectares of rice in Masvingo — a project set to showcase Tokwe -Mukosi Dam’s humongous impact on farming.
Zimbabwe imports over 95 percent of its rice despite having ample production capacity underpinned by growing domestic demand for the crop.
Zimbabwe produces very little rice and statistics show that the country produces around just a tonne of rice annually while it imports over 250 000 tonnes.
Seed Co Zimbabwe managing director Denias Zaranyika, did not divulge much information. He, however, said plans are underway to do commercial seed production.
“I can’t say much about the issue but as the Minister (Made) rightfully said, we are in discussions with the Government about rice seed production and we are still looking for effective methods of producing seed rice.
“The tests are still being carried out at the National Research Board (NRB) and after that we will have more information about the rice producing subject. As of now I can’t say much because we are yet to see the results,” said Zaranyika.
It is believed that Seed Co has invested close to $5 million on rice seed production.
In the coming years, Government is expected to put rice under the Presidential Input Scheme to boost its production among small scale farmers.
Government is embarking on a three year rice programme, which is expected to kick off this year and may be put under the import substitution programmes better known as command agriculture starting from next year.