Govt seeks private sector support


HARARE – Government has turned to the private sector seeking at least $120 million in financial support to fund the 2013-14 agricultural season.

Patrick Chinamasa, newly-appointed Finance minister, said the funds would be disbursed to various agricultural inputs suppliers.

“That commitment ($120 million) is there from the private sector to go and beef up capacity of fertiliser companies and seed houses to produce the quantities that we need.

“That is something we negotiated with the private sector and input suppliers. We are just the facilitators,” he said on Wednesday.

This comes as government has pinned its economic growth hopes on the agriculture and mining sectors.

Recently, it unveiled a $161 million farming inputs support facility that will benefit at least 1,6 million farmers in the pending season.

The programme is primarily targeting communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farmers.
However, this comes when most Zimbabwean companies are currently facing viability challenges due to liquidity constraints among other hurdles.

A latest industry survey by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) revealed that capacity utilisation plummeted to 39 percent from 44, 2 percent in the year to September 2013.

Also, analysts say government should adopt a paradigm shift, which seeks to move away from donor-funded agriculture to farming for profit regardless of size and also attract serious investors.

“From a general economic point of view we need to develop investor-friendly policies and attract foreign investment.

“These policies must be fair to all and also offer security to the investor,” said Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU)’s president Charles Taffs.

He added that the country needed to rapidly finalise the “land question” to pave way for the creation of an active land market on the back of which a strong and robust banking sector can be established.

“Our agricultural sector must diversify and become consistent in its production levels.”

Taffs pointed out that it is only when this is a reality that confidence will be restored within the service and supply sector together with the manufacturing sector.

He said the country should rapidly develop multi-sectorial strategies whereby all sectors can develop in an environment for the betterment of all on the understanding that no sector can operate in isolation of any other.

“We urgently need to establish the symbiotic linkages between small and large-scale producers enabling small operators to enter into the production of high value crops historically only open to the large producers, these small producers on the back of the large volume producers can give them access to processing and value addition markets traditionally denied to them in the past,” he said, adding that “farmers need to move away from farming systems which for many years have enslaved them in a never ending cycle of dependence,”

“Zimbabwe farming must become attractive to young farmers offering them a career option which competes favourably with other career alternatives, which has the capacity to provide them with a strong future for them and their children in the knowledge that their investment and hard work today will benefit them in ten to 20 years into the future,” said Taffs.

During its peak, agriculture used to contribute at least 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product with sectors such as cattle ranching and grain production flourishing.

Statistics from the United Nations-World Food Programme indicate that more than 2,2 million Zimbabweans will need food assistance next year.

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