Sunday, September 27, 2020

de Graaf blames anticipated poor harvest to agronomic factors

Agriculture Minister, Christian de Graaf, leapt to the defence of inadequate cultivation of ploughing field under the current ploughing season, blaming it on inadequate rainfall at the time of planting in the country.

The agricultural sectorÔÇöboth┬á animal husbandry and crop production ÔÇö┬á used to contribute 65 percent of the GDP at independence but that has shrunk to just under three percent.

Although agriculture is still one of the major employing sector in the country, its contribution has been substituted by the mining sectorÔÇö especially the diamond industry that contributes┬á40 percent to the GDP and over 55 percent of government revenue.

However, as a result of the global economic crunch the performance of the diamond industry as the engine of growth has been jaded as consumers in the developed world ceased to buy luxury items, especially diamonds.

de Graaf,  however, associated the anticipated gloom to other agronomic factors such as inadequate soil moisture at the time of planting, dry spells and poor seed bed preparations amongst the list.

“My ministry did receive some reports of poor seed germination of Sephala and Segaolane sorghum varieties in some parts of the country, including Kgatleng District and parts of Mahalapye and Machaneng areas in the central district.

“On re-testing the seed, it was confirmed that the viability of the seed was acceptable. The germination percentages were 80 percent for sorghum, 90 percent for maize and 70 percent for cowpeas. I should also indicate that the same seed has performed very well in other areas. The germination could therefore be attributed to other agronomic factors such as inadequate soil moisture at the time of planting, dry spells, poor seed bed preparations, poor planting techniques to mention a few,” he added.

Suspicious the seeds supplied to farmers during the current ploughing season via ISPAAD programme were old and expired, Kgatleng East MP,  Isaac Mabiletsa,  posed a question in parliament last week.

He wanted the minister to ascertain whether he was aware that the seeds that were supplied to farmers during the current ploughing season were old and had expired leading to poor germination which would result in low harvest.

de Graaf was further requested to provide the dates the seeds were purchased, the expense of the transaction and the name of the supplier ascertaining whether the ministry carried out any inspection or tests to determine the suitability of the seeds. 

Purchased from seed growers in the country from the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 cropping seasons, parliament also learnt the seeds were processed by the Seed Multiplication Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and supplied for free to the farmers under ISPAAD programme.

“The dates the seeds were processed appear on the tags which are attached to the bags. These are not expiry dates but are dates of processing of seeds,” de Graaf┬ásaid.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.