‘Extend price reductions to maize seed too’
Edgar Vhera Agriculture Specialist Writer
WITH input procurement for the 2023/24 summer cropping season hitting fever pitch, maize farmers have beseeched agro-input stockists to extend the price reductions they effected on fertilisers to hybrid seeds and holistically lower costs of production while increasing farmers’ earnings.
This came out at the annual national agribusiness conference held recently in Harare under the 113th edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show (ZAS).
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Secretary General Mr Paul Zakariya said while farmers were pleased with notable reduction in fertiliser prices the same could not be said of hybrid maize seed whose prices have continued on an upward trend.
“Though prices of fertiliser have declined from last year’s elevated figures, as farmers we are worried that the price of hybrid maize seed is still too high. At an average price of US$90 per 25 kilogramme bag, we are not too sure as to what has driven this up as six years ago the same package cost US$18,” Mr Zakariya said.
A comparative analysis of some prices of some inputs used in maize production from some agro-input stockists shows that the prices of most input components had dropped significantly since last year, thereby giving farmers hope for a rise in returns this season.
On average between the period October 2022 and September 2023 input prices dropped 25 percent, with the major changes noted in fertilisers especially Ammonium Nitrate (AN) at 47 percent.
This is good news to farmers, as fertilisers are the largest input cost component in maize production accounting for over 50 percent of variable costs per hectare.
Glyphosate had the second largest drop in price of 35 percent, however, the requirement by stockists for its payment in foreign currency only dampens farmers’ spirits.
The same applies to maize seed whose price declined 26 percent but was not being sold in local currency with agro-traders only demanding foreign currency.
A worrying trend established in the recent survey was that most agro-input stockists were only selling their inputs in foreign currency and were not accepting payments in local currency.
Government has set a target of 2 million hectares of maize in the 2023/24 summer cropping season to ensure food and nutrition security for the country.
Under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, Government is targeting to provide inputs to over 3 million households on 400 000 hectares.
The National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), other banks, private sector and self-financed farmers will undertake maize production on 1, 6 million hectares to ensure that the country produces 2, 8 million tonnes of maize.
Government recently announced an incentive planning maize price of US$335 per tonne that took into account of all the cost factors as well as an additional 15 percent profit premium to encourage production in the face of the El Nino weather pattern that has been forecast.
The model used a yield assumption of 5, 55 tonnes per hectare for a farmer committing inputs in the ranges recommended in the maize budget.