Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter—
Zimbabwe requires at least $1,7 billion to fund crop and livestock production during the 2015-6 summer cropping season, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said. This is a significant increase compared to $1,2 billion that was used to fund production during the 2014-15 season. Supporting agricultural production is in line with the food security and nutrition cluster under Zim-Asset.
If availed on time, such funding will enable farmers to produce over two million tonnes of cereals needed for human and livestock consumption and over 200 million kilogrammes of tobacco, the highest figure produced by farmers in the 1999-2000 season.
Zim-Asset outlines intervention measures such as availing a Presidential Inputs Support Scheme focusing on supporting vulnerable groups at household and community level, and ensures other farmers access affordable inputs timeously.
In his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review statement last Thursday, Minister Chinamasa said of the $1,7 billion required, $1,3 billion would go towards crop production.
He said Government would also assist 300 000 vulnerable households through inputs support schemes at a cost of $28 million.
The inputs support package will comprise of a 10kg bag of maize seed, a 50kg bag of Compound D and a bag of Ammonium Nitrate for top dressing fertilisers.
“Government is working on arrangements to bring in private sector participation in agriculture financing. On its part, Government will primarily focus on supporting vulnerable household farmers through an input pack scheme.
“To capacitate farmers in preparation for the 2015-2016 agricultural season, Government will also prioritise outstanding payments to farmers amounting to $29,2 million for grain delivered during the 2014-15 marketing season.
“Furthermore, payment for new deliveries to July 2015 of about 26 950 tonnes of grains valued at $10,5 million under the 2015-16 marketing season will be prioritised,” he said.
Minister Chinamasa said Government was co-ordinating all key stakeholders including co-operating partners, input suppliers, financiers and farmers to ensure adequate preparatory arrangements.
“In terms of financing, Government intervention will be in line with its capacity, while also playing a facilitatory role in mobilising other resources from private sources in support of agriculture,” he said.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo, urged Government to prioritise capacitating the GMB so that it paid farmers on time.
“It is disturbing that Government forks out more than $230 million importing wheat when local farmers can produce the crop.
“Why not use the money on local farmers? We still have farmers who have not received their money for the grain delivered in 2013 and 2014.
“Some farmers have lost their houses after they failed to pay back loans due to non-payment of the grain. Government should consider paying farmers an interest for the late payments as is done with the banks. We are charged interest of above 25 percent for late payment,” she said.
Mrs Nkomo said Government should make sure that funds mobilised for agriculture are monitored to ensure they are sent to intended beneficiaries.
“We have heard of huge funds channelled to agriculture, but we cannot access them as banks are not assisting farmers, ” she said.
Agriculture economist, Mr Midway Bhunu, said it was critical for all key players on the inputs supply chain to ensure that inputs are available on the market early to enable timely planting.
“Access to inputs is a function of availability and affordability of the inputs to smallholder farmers who are mostly financially challenged.
“If GMB could improve its payment systems and give farmers their money on time, they are able to put inputs in place well before the onset of the rains.
“However, as a country, we need to develop strategies that enhance farmers’ access to markets. There is need for sustainable strategic partnerships among key stakeholders with emphasis on high private sector participation in markets development,” he said.
Last season, the summer cropping season was affected by erratic rainfall and floods, which affected production.
The poor rainfall pattern not only resulted in some of the area under cropping having to be written-off, but also adversely affected the quality of some crops.
The impact was most severe on cereals, such as maize and small grains.
This resulted in the country facing a maize deficit of 700 000 tonnes of maize and the tobacco target being revised from the initial 222 million kg to 185 million kg.
The target was, however, surpassed.