There is a possibility that Malawi will have uncertified seeds in 2014/15 growing season following government’s failure to inspect crop fields by seed companies due to poor funding.
Malawi Government has reduced drastically its monthly funding to Chitedze Research Station from K3 million (US$7 371) to less than K500 000 (US$1 228) hence the station is failing to finance Seed Services Unit (SSU).
Chitedze based SSU under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is the major laboratory for seed inspection and is mandated to make available high quality seed of improved varieties of crops. The unit is responsible for the whole process of seed certification by registering seed growers and inspecting their fields.
But inside sources at the ministry confided to The Nation that officials at Chitedze are failing to inspect crops because the funding is not enough.
“Chitedze Research Station gets a monthly funding of K3 million, but for the last three months it has been getting less than K500 000. In February this year, it got K391 000 yet utility bills are at K1.5 million (water and electricity only). In the month of January 2014, Escom disconnected electricity at the research station,” said the source.
But the ministry’s spokesperson Sarah Tione-Chowa said this is a general problem in the ministry.
“The problem of poor funding is a general problem affecting the whole ministry. The funding has been reduced as we are trying to do the job using the little resources available,” said Tione-Chowa.
She assured Malawians that the ministry will try as much as possible to inspect crops using available resources.
But a senior official at SSU said with the current funding, inspection will not be possible and farmers should brace for scarcity of certified seeds in the next growing season.