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UN initiative to boost crop yields in Mozambique

(Xinhua)

21:45, December 30, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- A United Nations initiative in Mozambique aiming to increase seed quality will help the African country capitalize on its arable land and unlock its potential, UN officials said here Thursday.

The effort, launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO), seeks to help Mozambican farmers by increasing the quality of local seed production and boosting the country's overall crop yields, said the officials.

"Increasing agricultural production in a country whose yields are among the lowest in the world starts with boosting productivity," said Jose de Graca, coordinator for the FAO project in Mozambique.

According to FAO, only 10 percent of Mozambique's arable land is cultivated and most farmers still use sub-standard seeds. Following a surge in global food prices during the 2007-2008 biennium, the UN initiative has become central to food stability across the country.

"It has become crucial to increase production," said Mahomed Vala, national director of agrarian services in Mozambique's agriculture ministry. "At least 15 percent of our farmers should have access to quality seeds in five to six years."

Throughout the project, FAO worked with 15 seed companies and 1, 000 small-scale seed growers to stimulate local seed production across seven provinces in Mozambique. An estimated 3,500 tons of seeds for crops, including maize, rice, beans, soybeans, and sunflower, were grown.

The program also provided support to 25,000 smallholder farmers, who received nearly 1,000 tons of maize and rice seeds as well as fertilizer and tools at subsidized prices.

Paulo Calcao, a farmer from the country's central Manica province, welcomed the initiative, saying his last harvest produced 2,880 kilograms of maize, and he would continue using the improved seeds even if the subsidies ceased.

Calling the gains from the project "significant," the FAO also warned that an estimated four million smallholder farmers continue to need support and that more efforts are needed to offset Mozambique's annual food deficit of one million tons.


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