HARARE – Prices of basic commodities like cooking oil and lately mealie meal have been silently rising.
This has further eroded the already weakened buying power of most poor households living below both the food poverty line and poverty datum line.
While the land reform programme was touted as the only sustainable means of dealing with extreme hunger and poverty by giving the previously landless individuals land to produce staple foods like maize and guarantee food security, the opposite has actually been the result.
Recent media reports are quite disturbing as they confirm the country has ceased to be a breadbasket but has turned into a basket case.
A local weekly reported that more than 17 000 tonnes of maize worth $7 million purchased by Zimbabwean millers is stuck in Zambia as the country has imposed a ban on white maize exports.
If anyone ever doubted the capacity of new farmers to feed the nation then everything has been laid bare.
Why should our own millers spend so much money to purchase grain from Zambia?
If at all maize is not a lucrative crop then why would our very own farmers let such large sums of money go outside the country when they sell to the millers directly?
We must admit without any pretence that farmers have failed to produce enough grain to feed the country and make bold measures to ensure that all the land is used productively instead of holding on to the land for prestigious reasons.
If we say the economy is the land and land is the economy it means we should derive our livelihood from it and not to be held at ransom by other countries and waste scarce resources.
It is so sad that the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe has now resorted to engaging government ministers and requesting to them to lead delegations to Zambia over maize, of all things.
All is not well in the agricultural sector as the production of staple products is not being prioritised in the same way the Zambians are doing.
Zimbabwe should shift its priorities in terms of production of food crops.
What benefit does it bring to the country if more than 60 000 farmers are growing harmful crops like tobacco which decimates forests, contribute to climate change and threatens the health of the nation?
The time to shift is now as the poor and vulnerable groups will forever bear the brunt of increasing prices of stable foods like maize.
If the farming sector is not revamped for the better then more catastrophic scenarios are in the offing.
Our own indigenous farmers are also finding the going tough as they depended on donor funding in much the same way they developed into cry babies, always waiting for handouts.
Those who have been given land must realise that it is a national resource which should be fully utilised for the benefit of citizens instead of having to resort to importing what can be produced locally.
With reports that the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union is failing to finance its operations due to dwindling donor support, we should be very afraid as almost all of its technical support staff are reported to have resigned.
We need to ask what does the future hold for the agricultural sector.
As was reported in some sections of the media, some new farmers including traditional chiefs who have been given land have failed to farm and are now leasing it to former commercial white farmers.
If looked from a purely economic sense it would not really matter on who is doing what as long as at the end of the day we can feed ourselves.
Hungry people will never ask who grew the maize as long as it is there.
In real business practice the colour of the cat matters little as long as it can catch mice. – Wellington Gadzikwa