George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
GOVERNMENT has relaxed import restrictions on agricultural inputs to allow individuals with free funds to augment supplies on the local market, a Cabinet minister has said.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the move was expected to counter the sharp input price increases.
There are also fears price increases, especially of agricultural inputs, could scupper the country’s agrarian reforms. Manufacturers and retailers recently hiked prices citing shortage of foreign currency.
In an interview on Wednesday, Dr Made said Cabinet was concerned at the spike in prices of agricultural inputs.
“Cabinet has noted with concern the increases in prices of agricultural inputs for both livestock and crops. The whole situation appears as if it’s an attempt to undermine the agricultural sector and in particular as we enter the 2017-18 season,” he said.
Minister Made said Government will put in place several measures to make sure Zimbabwe’s land and agrarian reforms were not undermined.
“We have said, as Government, that those who have their own resources should import agricultural inputs, but what will be critical is that if it is allowed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, we will just appeal for those who will be importing to comply with the standards,” he said.
He said Government was against importing such critical inputs as the country ran the risk of getting either expired or ineffective products.
The issue of the recent hikes, Dr Made said, has since been discussed in Cabinet, which subsequently tasked the ministries of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, Finance and Economic Development, and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to look into the problem.
“It is as if it’s an attempt to lay the recipe for an unsuccessful 2017-18 agricultural season. Cabinet has since directed that the matter gets the urgency it deserves,” said Dr Made.
“We have to make sure there are measures in place to deal with the problem and one of the measures is to allow those with their own resources to import agricultural inputs.”
He said Government will make sure that the imported inputs are subjected to strict vetting.
“We will be on high alert because we do not want our country to be a dumping ground for sub-standard goods.”
Minister Made said Zimbabwe will continue to gradually roll out additional measures to reduce the country’s exposure to elements trying to undermine the land reform programme.
“More measures are coming, but in relation to this season, we are allowing those with their own resources. We cannot take control of entities that supply agricultural inputs but we need to futuristically look at measures that make agricultural inputs readily available to our farmers and that prices are not exploited.”
He said it was disturbing to note that some companies were withholding inputs under the guise of foreign currency shortages. According to Dr Made, it was unacceptable for firms to withhold inputs after receiving foreign currency allocations from Government.
He added that the prevailing high cost of agricultural inputs vindicated President Mugabe’s incessant calls for Zimbabweans to be masters of the own destiny by taking control of key economic pillars so that the country is not exposed to foreign evil machinations.
Dr Made said that farmers needed to fully embrace Government’s soya- bean programme as it had the potential to enhance nitrogen supply to the soil, hence improving its fertility.
“Other countries whose agricultural programmes have been undermined had successfully used the soyabean programme to boost productivity after using the crop as a nitrogen fixer in the soil that would, however, start bearing fruit in subsequent farming seasons,” he said.
Minister Made said Government will work flat out to make sure that the 2017-18 farming season does not fail.
“If we can get good rains, we can try our best and work with the limited resources that we have,” he said.
He applauded the Brazilian More Food for Africa programme for boosting Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.
“We would also like to pay tribute to other countries such as China, Japan, Italy, France and Russia together with the European Union for assisting with agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and equipment.”
Dr Made commended the Grain Marketing Board and Cotton Company of Zimbabwe for the efficient distribution of agricultural inputs under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
The scheme is expected to benefit at least 1,8 million households this season.