FINANCE minister Samuel Mumbengegwi yesterday allocated the Agriculture ministry $475 trillion, $165 million more than what it had requested for in the
formulation stages of the 2008 national budget.
The allocation is expected to be used mainly for grain imports, support for both summer and winter cropping seasons, livestock support, rehabilitation of irrigation and on-farm infrastructure as well as dam construction.
Presenting the budget, Mumbengegwi said a vibrant agricultural sector was essential for the revival of the economy and to ensure food self-sufficiency as well as increase industrial production in the country.
He reviewed the rentals fees for A2 farmers to reflect the real value of the farms, saying that farmers would be required to show proof of payment of the rental fees in order to be eligible to participate in government-assisted prgrammes.
He said notwithstanding the difficulties affecting the agricultural sector, it managed to record an overall growth during the 2006/7 season.
“Notwithstanding drought conditions experienced during the 2006/7 cropping season, real growth of 4% is estimated for the agricultural sector this year,” Mumbengegwi said.
“Tobacco, horticulture, groundnut, soya beans, sunflower and tea were among the major crops contributing to this year’s overall positive agricultural performance. The positive performances of the above crops offset the drought-induced decline in maize production, which fell to 953 000 tonnes compared to the 2006 crop of 1 485 000 tonnes.”
He said government will continue to support the agricultural sector through the provision of inputs and working capital, so the 2007/8 season which has been dubbed “the mother of all agricultural seasons” has to be accorded highest priority in the 2008 budget.
“Since the majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, increased support for agriculture is increased support for the people,” he said. “This is why this budget is dubbed the ‘people’s budget’.”
Mumbengegwi said production in virtually all crops was expected to increase next year following government interventions with farm machinery, equipment and inputs.
“Government interventions for the coming season should see farmers benefit from improved access to a wide range of farm machinery and equipment, and such inputs as fertilisers, seeds and chemicals are now in place for the 2007/8 farming season,” he said.
He said farmers were already accessing the inputs through countrywide GMB depots.
“In the case of maize seed, measures are in place to provide for the estimated shortfall of the 15 000 tonnes through imports. Seed houses have availed 35 000 tonnes of maize seed,” he said.
Mumbengegwi allocated $1,9 trillion towards inputs support and maize purchases of which $1,4 trillion was already spent at the end of October.
“Government also provided resources amounting to $98,6 billion for the purchase of fertiliser, chemicals and seeds, through Agribank and Operation Maguta,” he said.
He said the Reserve Bank has also supported the effort through the mechanisation programme and provision of incentives in order to encourage agricultural production.
“By October 2007, over 2 500 tractors and other farm machinery were allocated to the farmers under this programme,” he said. “Over 70 000 ox-drawn implements have also been availed to communal farmers.”
He said government disbursed resources amounting to $958,6 billion in support of wheat production, of which $500 billion was for wheat purchases which has seen over 70 000 tonnes delivered to the GMB.
He said attention has been given to other sectors that directly contribute towards the success of agriculture, which include inputs such as coal, electricity and fuel where the providers of these resources need recapitalisation.
“Included in the areas of agricultural production under focus is livestock production,” he said. “This requires budgetary support in terms of the veterinary services and loan scheme for the rebuilding of the national herd.
“To augment these efforts to support agricultural production, government will work out and implement cost-plus pricing for agricultural commodities with two objectives of ensuring farmer viability and productivity as well as affordable food crop prices to the end consumer.”
He said his focus was consistent with the current initiatives such as the ongoing agricultural mechanisation, Aspef as well as operation Maguta and is a direct strategy for reducing inflation.