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Agriculture budget unable to meet farmers’ needs

Itai Dzamara

THE supplementary budget allocation to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Resettlement for crop inputs is far from what is necessary to avert food shortages due to drastically reduced

agricultural productivity.

In his supplementary budget proposal three weeks ago, Finance minister Herbert Murerwa allocated an additional $45 billion for crop inputs as well as livestock production for the coming farming season.

That was in addition to the $12,5 billion allocated in the current budget, bringing the total to $57,5 billion.

The amount, analysts say, is insignificant considering the plethora of constraints facing the agricultural sector.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agriculture spokesman Renson Gasela told parliament that the $45 billion was too little considering the task at hand.

“The additional allocation is far from extricating the country from severe food shortages as a result of low productivity,” said Gasela.

“The amount of money required for inputs is a minimum of $432 billion. The minister (of Agriculture Joseph Made) says that the additional amount will include tillage, fertilisers, chemicals and livestock. So this provision is too little.”

Gasela said the total budget for farming inputs, if properly used, would only yield 150 tonnes of maize. The country requires 2 500 000 tonnes for consumption. The other option was for farmers to raise their own funds, and each would need up to $1 million for seeds and fertilisers alone.

Murerwa also proposed to make $60 billion available to farmers through Agribank, which however is difficult to access due to delays and lack of collateral.

In addition, the nation would need to raise enough foreign currency to import seeds and fertilisers because of the inability of local companies to meet demand.

Fertiliser and seed manufacturers last week revealed that they would only manage to produce low quantities this season due to the shortage of raw materials, which require foreign currency.

It also emerged that efforts by government to secure fertilisers from Malaysia were hitting a snag due to the shortage of foreign currency.

The destruction of the agricultural sector caused by President Robert Mugabe’s chaotic land reform programme which started in 2000 has led to acute food shortages. Coupled with damaging economic policies, the effects have crippled all sectors of society, thereby plunging the country into the current crisis.

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