THE 2007/8 agricultural season publicised as “the mother of all agricultural seasons” could turn out to be the worst season ever as farmers fail to
access the necessary inputs on time for planting, experts have warned.
Reports coming from most provinces show that farmers have been forced to plant an estimated 40% of the area normally put under crops because of the shortages of seed, fertiliser, draught power and equipment, threatening prospects of a bumper harvest next year before it even starts.
Despite the best spell of wet weather since the cyclones of 2000, the mechanisation programme equipment is still stored at a number of government premises while farmers fail to till the land. In Chiredzi hundreds of ploughs lie idle in the rural council yard.
Fertiliser and seed companies said they had no capacity to satisfy the national requirement due to lack of foreign currency and unrealistic prices. There is also a critical shortage of pesticides and other chemicals.
Zanu PF central committee report presented at the party’s extraordinary congress last week exposed vast differences between what the farmers require to produce enough food and the resources made available by government.
The report said local seed houses made available around 28 450 tonnes of seed. This is enough to cover 1,2 million hectares compared to the targeted 3,2 million hectares of land. The quantity account for only a third of what the country requires.
Government said it was going to address the shortfall through importing the seed from Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.
To date a mere 794 tonnes of seed have been imported from Zambia, the report said.
The report noted that serious shortages were in the fertiliser section with local producers not in a position to fully exploit their capacity due to unviable prices, shortages of phosphates, foreign currency, coal and power.
“The fertiliser industry are prepared to produce 53 950 tonnes of Compound D between October and December and 46 714 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate (AN) between September and February 2008 subject to immediate availability of foreign currency amounting to US$12 million for spare parts and raw materials, an improvement in electricity supplies and a reviewed price,” the central committee report said.
The country requires 720 000 tonnes of compound and 774 000 of AN each season.
The report said government would bridge the gap through imports of fertiliser from China and South Africa.
Government has issued permits to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to engage Insthona for the immediate importation of 50 000 tonnes of urea and 41 000 tonnes of compound D.
Insthona is the company which brought substandard fertiliser into the country resulting in the firing of the then Agriculture secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa.
Last year Intshona supplied about 800 tonnes of the substandard fertiliser, prejudicing the country of up to US$300 000.
The report said the supply of fuel, coal and electricity remained critical.
However, farming experts said the situation on the ground throws into disarray all government prospects of a quick fix to the free falling agricultural sector and the economy at large.
Experts say government efforts to boost production would not yield any positive results under the current legislative set-up and the continued farm invasions, which have created uncertainty for investors to embark on business expansions.
“The situation continues to be untenable unless farm-grabbing and farming implements seizures by top government officials at the expense of ordinary farmers, power blackouts and unavailability of inputs are addressed,” one expert said. “Nationally agricultural output has predictably declined further relegating government efforts to a national joke.”
He said the major constraint to increased productivity was the uncertainty of tenure in the agricultural sector where farmers are evicted on a daily basis.
Continued acquisition notices, disruptions, acts of violence on farms and lack of land-based collateral were some of the problems farmers face.”
The chaotic land reform programme, which from inception has been condemned by international donors as unworkable and a recipe for disaster, has turned out to be just that. Over the past six seasons production in all facets of agriculture has plummeted, dragging the economy down with it.
Farmers have estimated production to have fallen by 70%, resulting in the country surviving on food handouts and grain imports to bridge food deficits.
Experts said farming activities require proper financing, planning and expertise which have been conspicuously absent since the inception of the land reform programme seven years ago.
Analysts attributed the continued slide of production to inherent policy contradictions from government officials as causing confusion on the ground. The confusion has sparked serious row between the Ministry of Lands and provincial leadership.
The ministry continues to issue offer letters while the provinces sought to boost production with the remaining white farmers not being disrupted. From the inception of the fast-track land reform white commercial farmers clinging on to the land were considered to be the primary obstacles to the success of the exercise.