The now internationally acclaimed Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed seed company with extensive breeding, production and marketing of certified hybrid crop seeds adaptable for the country’s ecological conditions, Seed Co Zimbabwe (Private Limited), went through a long journey of growth and sustenance until today when it now holds a large sales network and the widest geographic reach in agronomic practices including training of extension workers.
The company manoeuvre through pre-independence monopoly to the post-independence liberalised operating space.
1940 saw the birth of the establishment when farmers’ associations initiated seed production in Zimbabwe.
The Government then supported through research and plant breeding. Contract farming was enrolled with about 150 commercial farmers who were members of the Seed Maize Association (SMA).
The Government supplied seed varieties for particular ecological and farming conditions and instituted official seed certification. Agreements were entered into with various associations to formalise and strengthen relationships.
The first hybrid seed maize was produced and marketed by SMA’s Rattray and Arnold in 1949. According 2006 researchers, (Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Revolution Revisited, UZ publication), less than 100 tonnes were grown then compared to almost 6 000 tonnes in the 1990s.
Seed Maize Association (SMA) gave impetus to the proliferation of associations in succession, namely, the Crop Seed Association (CSA) (1957); the potato seed producers (1957); Zimbabwe Tobacco Seed Association (1959) and others. In 1983 the Crop Seed Association of Zimbabwe and the Seed Maize Association merged to form the Seed Coop Company.
The most crucial point was in 1960 when SR52, the first commercial hybrid seed, was released onto the market.
In 1970 Seed Maize Association of Zimbabwe purchased the Rattray Arnold station, first of the three research stations that forms Seed Co’s research’s intellectual property. Others include the Pioneer and Cargill that began seed certification in 1991 and Kadoma Research Station that was established in 1991 by the Stapleford facility.
The same year 1970 saw the birth of the monopolistic and tripartite agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture, the Seed Maize Association and the Rhodesia Farmers Union.
Also entered was the 1981 bipartite agreement for specific crop seeds (sorghum, groundnuts, barley, soya beans and wheat) between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Crop Seed Association.
Guided by the Plant Breeders Act of 1973, the Government retained ownership of the seed varieties with associations as the sole licences.
Associations could only export the seed provided it was surplus to local requirements including the local reserve.
The monopolies were done a blow by the Government’s trade liberalisation policy and the emergency of competing seed houses that nullified the merits of the tripartite and the bipartite agreements.
1996 saw the birth of the present seed giant Seed Co Zimbabwe Limited when the former Seed Co-op Company Zimbabwe Limited floated shares on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
Since then, significant growth events unfolded briskly. In 1997 the company acquired Semoc in Mozambique; 1998 Seed Co Zambia followed; 2000 Seed Co Malawi and Seed Co Botswana came into being and in 2004 Kenya Trading Office was established.
The business was right sized in 2005 and the following year 2006 saw the acquisition of Quton. By 2015 the company sold equity to Limagrain, a French company. The two mainly collaborates in the production of vegetable seeds under Prime Seed brand.
For sustainability purposes the company re-organised its structure. Seed Co Zimbabwe Limited is concerned with business in Zimbabwe while Seed Co Group Limited is responsible for international seed business across Africa.
The holding Seed Co Group presently run an internal sustainability strategy that links breeding, capacity building and seed sales to specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger); SDGs 5 (Gender Equality); SDGs 13 (Climate Action) and SDGs 15 (Life on Land).
Seed Co Limited Zimbabwe is also currently involved in the training of agro-workers as part of the group’s spearheaded programmes for seed certification and variety release training. Recent reports by the Group indicate that in Zimbabwe about 6 000 Government extension workers have been trained on best farming and business practices.
To date Seed Co Zimbabwe owns more than 20 maize seed varieties.