As the Agricultural Season A gets underway, government has announced that it has reduced subsidies on imported maize seeds so as to promote use of locally produced seeds, The New Times has learnt. The season started at the beginning of September. The new development follows many years of spending billions of francs on seed imports, which also came with other challenges like delays in delivery. During the National Leadership Retreat of 2018, government gave itself a target to become self-reliance in local production of seeds within three years. The national economy has been losing between Rwf4 billion and Rwf6 billion annually on importing of maize, wheat and Soya seeds, according to statistics from Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB). Egide Gatari, the Agricultural Subsidies Programme Manager at RAB told The New Times on Thursday, September 17, that government has reduced subsidies on imported seeds under the launched Agricultural Season A. “The subsidy rate has been reduced for imported seeds so as to increase uptake of locally produced seeds. This is strategy to exit from seed import. Currently, locally produced seeds are subsidized by 79 per cent while those imported are subsidized by only 40 per cent,” he explained. The official explained that locally produced maize seeds for low land is available at 100 per cent while seeds for high land is currently available at 90 per cent. However, he explained that any farmer can prefer to still use imported seeds but at their own cost. He said that the price for subsidized locally maize seeds is between Rwf453 and Rwf526 per kilogramme while the price for imported seeds has increased up to Rwf1,487 and Rwf1,547 depending on the variety. The annual target for seed production in the 2018/19 fiscal year was achieved at only 31 per cent. In the same year, the country spent a staggering Rwf6.5 billion on the importation of 3,579 metric tonnes of seeds, contributing to the huge trade deficit. To reduce the gap, in 2019/20, Rwanda locally produced 1,750 metric tonnes of maize seeds and 258 metric tonnes of wheat. At least 290 metric tonnes of Soybean seeds were produced, well above the annual target. His said192 metric tonnes of bean seeds were produced in 2019/20 against a target of 150 metric tonnes while 160 metric tonnes of rice were produced against a target of 150 metric tonnes. Farmers speak out Meanwhile, farmers who spoke to The New Times that there has been a sharp increase on the price of maize seeds, calling for government intervention. “We are now collecting maize seeds but the price has increased two-fold from Rwf720 to about Rwf1,500. The distributor is telling us that it has become difficult to get seeds and that these are prices on the market,” said Jean Nepomuscene Gasana, the president of Farmers cooperative –Abajuje-Akabuga from Gatsibo district. The cooperative of 28 members will grow maize on 10 hectares. “We are buying maize seeds at high price and we do not know the reason,” he complained. However, Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of Maize Farmers’ Cooperatives Federation said that some importers are doing their best to sell their imported stock and therefore hide information about locally produced seeds that are affordable. “Farmers should be aware that subsidies for imported seeds have reduced. The local agronomists should have explained this to farmers so that they make their choices,” he said. RAB says that next year, government will remove all subsidies for imported seeds so that those who choose to buy them pay 100 per cent of the price. This means the price on imported seeds will be five times more expensive than locally produced seeds.