THE success of Zimbabwe’s 2014/15 agricultural season is under serious threat from a myriad of problems ranging from late preparations, poor input supply, late rains, high input costs and flooding, agricultural experts say.
Last week, the country experienced floods in many parts of the country, seriously threatening Zimbabwe’s prospects of a decent harvest and hence food security.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Wonder Chabikwa said due to the late rains, the majority of farmers were still in the process of ploughing the fields.
“The bulk of crops are being planted right now; farmers are busy planting maize, sorghum and soya beans,” Chabikwa said. “The season started late and we are governed by the onset of the rainy season. Our season used to start in October and November, but this year we received our first meaningful rains mid-December. We hope the rainy season will extend to April and May because if it ends early we will be in trouble.”
However, he remains confident of a successful season premised upon the payment of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) this week.
Last year the Zanu PF Youth League, in partnership with a local company, Lasch, launched a US$2,4 billion agriculture fund in which 800 000 new farmers were expected to receive over US$3 000 each in agricultural support for the 2014/15 farming season.
Drama later unfolded after the farmers were duped and left desperate with no funds for their agricultural activities.
Government once again failed to provide sufficient funding for the agricultural season with most financial institutions wary of loan non-payment. The farmers’ 99-year leases are not considered adequate collateral by banks. The 2014/2015 presidential well-wishers agricultural scheme was expected to benefit 1,6 million households, but it has been dogged by accusations of nepotism, corruption and favouritism.
Agricultural expert Mandivamba Rukuni said for the country’s agricultural sector to rebound there is need to capacitate farmers to fund their agricultural activities through timeous payment for deliveries.
“Inputs delivery was late, but farmers should not rely on the government. There is too much emphasis on donors and government support,” Rukuni said. “The agricultural sector will start to function when farmers go and buy inputs on their own. Farmers also need to be mindful that weather patterns have changed due to climate change.”
Rukuni advised farmers to make up their mind whether to sell to GMB or private players who readily pay.
Last week, government promised to support the GMB with US$50 million through Agriculture Marketing Authority bills to settle the debt of millions of dollars owed to farmers for grain deliveries.