Agriculture is expected to grow by 10% next year after a cumulative decline of 85,7% since 2002.
Budget allocations of US$55 million for the 2009/2010 agricultural season would not be enough to revive the sector thus more resources should be made available for the 2010/2011 season which may become the defining season.
Director of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, Aaron Zacharia, said apart from making more funds available, it was also imperative that there were policy changes to encourage investment in the sector.
“It is not just the money that we should be looking at but policies as well. We want policies which would lead to the development and revival of the sector,” said Zacharia. “We want policies which would give value to the land so that the farmers would be able to borrow from the financial institutions against the value of their pieces of land.”
It was also important that the budget highlight how compensation for the former farm owners was going to be made as a way of concluding the land reform issue, said Zacharia.
“We also need to note that any economic revival would be underpinned by a resuscitation of agriculture and at least 10% of the budget should go to agriculture if we are to achieve the projected growth levels in gross domestic product,” said Zacharia. “However, if we allocate only 5% of a very small budget to agriculture, then we have to work very hard to achieve the growth levels.”
At least US$847,6 million is required to fund agriculture next season with the bulk of the amount going towards tobacco, but this is still below the US$1 billion plus which is required to have a successful farming season.
Area under tobacco during the 2010/2011 season is expected to grow to 75 000 hectare with a 200 million kg yield up from the 65 million kg this season.
This, Biti said, would require up to US$600 million.
Small-scale farmers, who used to contribute close to 70% of grain in the country, would get support to the tune of US$95,3 million while at least one million vulnerable rural households would get maize seed, compound fertiliser as well as ammonium nitrate.
Past vice-president of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union Edward Raradza said the budget allocations were welcome if followed.
“We are happy with the allocation but they should be fully implemented if we are to meet the targets which have been set,” Raradza said. “We would be very comfortable if resources were made available on time as this would enable farmers to plan. We hope that seed, fertiliser and chemicals are available by October for the next season.”
Extension services would also be revived with the procurement of vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles for use by workers.
Generally, the agriculture sector is faced with serious problems with farmers holding on to their produce, citing uncompetitive prices against a background of very high productive costs.
This presents a paradoxical situation as the buyers are not prepared to pay more than US$170 per tonne of maize, for example,
yet farmers would incur losses if they sold their crops for anything less than US$250 per tonne.
High productive costs mean locally-produced crops are not competitive, not only within the country, but in the region.