The poor quality of the seed at the local markets in Africa is an underestimated problem. It slows down farming and food production, tells Harald Peeters from Qsem.
There is plenty of seed on the local African markets. And it is inexpensive. But it is especially unreliable. Germination is often poor and you never know for sure what breed you buy. ‘You even can’t tell what vegetables will sprout,’ says Harald Peeters.
Peeters is director of Qsem, the Tanzanian seed company of Rijk Zwaan Netherlands. The current supply of poor quality vegetable seeds on the local markets keeps production low. ‘This seed can never feed the growing population,’ says Peeters.
Most farmers keep their seeds from last year. The remnants are sold on the market. This easy access to cheap but poor seeds is an important source of hunger and malnutrition, is his firm belief.
This is why Qsem, along with East West Seeds, the largest seed company in South East Asia, founded the company Afrisem.
This company trains small farmers on a model farm. But it remains a seed producer, so it does especially what it does best: producing good seed and introducing new varieties.
‘Shelf life gives farmers market power’
Especially for small-scale local farmers Afrisem developed small breeds that are easy to grow, produce more and earlier products with a longer shelf life. ‘More durability gives farmers more market power,’ says Peeters.
Now the small-scale farmer depends on the trader who can easily show up a day later than agreed, he explains. ‘After one day local tomatoes have lost a lot of quality, also by a lack of cooling capacity. So the dealer can easily lower his price.’
The new generation of vegetable seeds deliver a robust product with a longer shelf life, but also a higher yield and faster growth. With this, farmers not only gain faster income, ‘a shorter growing season also means a lower risk of drought, floods, disease or pests,’ outlines Peeters.
© Marc van der Sterren
Read more in Dutch, in Blendle: over de nieuwe generatie groentezaden, hoe goed zaaizaad boeren marktmacht levert, over pepers die veel sneller groeien, over het terugverdienen van duur zaaizaad en over de demonstratievelden en de plantenkwekerij van Afrisem. Lees over de promotiecampagne die Afrisem is begonnen en over de nummer één notering van Rijk Zwaan.
Read an interview in Dutch with Harald Peeters, this week in Groenten & Fruit