ZIMBABWEâ€™S summer cropping season could be under threat as farmers do not have the money to procure agro-inputs.
Already expecting a disastrous winter season harvest due to poor planning and financial constraints, Zimbabweâ€™s food security could continue to be dire in the countryside.
Presenting oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association (ZSTA) which represents 12 seed companies said government requires 18 081 tonnes of hybrid and open pollinated maize seed from the Sadc region to meet the projected annual consumption for the season.
â€œFarmers require up to 40 000 tonnes of seed but seed companies currently have about 22 000 tonnes,â€ said ZSTA chairman Temba Nkatazo. â€œThe country is short of 18 000 tonnes which can be imported from the region.â€
Government, Nkatazo said, needs to outsource 1 000 tonnes of sorghum seed during the same season to meet the 3 000-tonne demand for the small grain.
The seed producers blamed low production on government payment delays for seed procured during aborted agricultural programmes such as the army-coordinated Operation Maguta. Government, according to the ZSTA, owes seed companies more than US$10 million.
Nkatazo, managing director for Paanar Seed, said the association was also planning to revive rural distribution shops that were closed during the 2007 price blitz which paralysed many companies.
â€œWe are trying to revive these rural shops destroyed during price controls because they accounted for up to 70% of seed sold in rural areas,â€ Nkatazo said.
He attributed subdued demand for imports to cash shortages on the market adding that local prices for fertiliser are currently pegged below the regional average of US$2 500 per tonne.
On fertilisers, ZFC marketing executive Amos Vengere told the same committee that local demand for common fertilisers â€“ Ammonium nitrate and Compound D â€“ essential for maize production would fall short of the estimated peak demand of 600 000 tonnes due to â€œfunding constraintsâ€ by farmers.
He said there were sufficient stocks for the country.
â€œThe industry is currently operating below capacity due to limited working capital as a result of weak domestic demand,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Finance minister Tendai Biti told the parliamentary committee on Budget Finance and Investment promotion that government would use US$73 million secured by the World Bank and deposited with the Multi Donor Trust Fund to finance the cropping season.
â€œUnder the Programmatic Multi Donor Trust Fund, coordinated by the World Bank, US$300 million was mobilised for humanitarian-plus assistance targeting agriculture, water and sanitation, health, education and social protectionâ€ Biti said.
â€œUS$73,75 million is earmarked for agriculture in the 2009/2010 season. The health sector is set to benefit to the tune of US$20 million for the procurement of drugs and equipment for rural health centres.â€
Water and sanitation sector, Biti said is expected to benefit US$36 million for the maintenance and rehabilitation of water points and sanitary facilities in both urban and rural areas.
â€œThe local fertiliser industry has secured a line of credit worth US$30 million from Afrexim Bank for local production of 170 000 tonnes of the commodity in support of the summer cropping programme,â€ Biti said.