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Land preps worst since independence

Itai Mushekwe

LAND preparations for the forthcoming season are at their worst since independence owing to a massive deficit of essential farming inputs.

ce=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The shortage of inputs has further thrown prospects of a significant harvest next year into jeopardy in the face of biting food shortages.

According to a report on the state of farming preparedness for the coming season prepared by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) after a meeting with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe earlier this month, the country has a paltry 30 000 tonnes of seed from local producers.

Under normal circumstances Zimbabwe requires 100 000 tonnes of maize seed to meet demand for commercial, resettled and communal farmers.

The CFU also cited the acute shortage of chemicals and fertiliser.

“The agro-chemical situation is very serious, with stocks being low throughout the country. Suppliers are not holding any product. The lead-time to obtain supplies, however, is shorter than with fertilisers, as road and air transport are used,” says the report.

The Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) and Windmill, two of the country’s major fertiliser producers, have revealed that no more than 50 000 tonnes of essential compound D and ammonium nitrate would be available this year. At least 300 000 tonnes of each of the fertilisers is required annually, giving a puncturing shortfall of 250 000 tonnes.

Farmer organisations say land preparations have been crippled by fuel shortages to power tractors. There is no practical evidence on the ground to support the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim)’s claims that it has made special allocations of fuel to farmers.

Noczim public relations manager, Zvikomborero Sibanda, said yesterday: “From January to September 2005, we have disbursed almost 20 million litres of diesel for use by farmers throughout the country. Petrol is allocated to farmers mostly for administrative purposes only but because of limited supplies this product has not been distributed to farmers.”

She admitted that the fuel disbursements fell far short of requirements and were a drop in the ocean.

“Given the challenges the country is facing in the supply of fuel, allocations being made to farmers, and all fuel users, are below their normal requirements,” she said.

Agricultural lobby group Justice for Agriculture (JAG) chairman, John Worswick, said there was no farming season to talk about.

“We are worried with what we are witnessing on the ground out there. Zimbabwe is facing an agricultural disaster,” he said. “There is going to be an enormous down trend in agricultural production across the board due to lack of inputs and agricultural will by farmers.”

Worswick said the state of land preparedness was so pathetic that it presaged worsening agricultural prospects.

It is estimated a minuscule 5% of commercial land has been tilled, raising fears of prolonged food shortages, as the bulk of Zimbabwe’s arable land is lying idle.

The forthcoming farming season looks bleak owing to numerous factors ranging from waning confidence by farmers to continue farming, as there is no security of tenure on the land following the nationalisation of land.

Government last month enacted Constitutional Amendment (No 17) which has turned land into state property and abolished land ownership rights.

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