HARARE – Zimbabwe requires over $1 billion for the 2013-2014 farming season to be successful, agriculture experts say.
Peter Gambara, an independent agronomist told businessdaily that government should complement efforts being done by banks and other private players to revive agriculture by setting aside some funds in the National Budget.
“It is encouraging that some banks have already taken the bull by the horns and have gone offshore to source funding for the agricultural sector.
“The onus is mainly on government to do the right things at the right time, by paying fertiliser companies their dues so that they can manufacture enough fertilisers for the forthcoming season,” he said.
This comes after financial institutions in the country have set aside $620 million to finance the current agricultural season, with individual farmers and suppliers free to access the funds.
Gambara noted that announcing a pre-planting producer price will also act as an incentive for farmers to grow maize, providing funding on time to banks for on-lending to farmers and channelling free government inputs to the right beneficiaries.
“Government should also either provide enough resources to Grain Marketing Board (GMB) so that it pays farmers on time for delivered maize or it should provide funds for the commercialisation of GMB so that the parastatal has the capacity to buy crops on its own without relying on Treasury,” he said.
With more than 2,2 million people facing starvation in the southern African nation, government recently pledged $161 million in agriculture input support for the 2013-14 season targeting 1,6 million mainly small-scale farming households as the country seeks to end years of perennial food shortages.
The country, once regarded as the breadbasket of Africa, has been struggling to feed its own people since President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party embarked on a controversial land reform programme that displaced
4 000 commercial farmers.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said each household will be given 50kg of Compound D and 50kg of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertiliser, as well as 50kg of lime and 10kg maize seed pack under the scheme.
Chinamasa said the government had also resolved to clear outstanding payments of $11,8 million to input suppliers from the previous season.
“We have given instructions for the money to be delivered straight away,” he said.
The government owes three seed houses $9,75 million and fertiliser firms over $2 million.
“This demonstrates our commitment to agriculture as this is the backbone which will trigger economic growth,” he said.
“Everything else should rotate within agriculture, we believe in establishing linkages with every other sector.”
The Food and Agriculture Organisation in partnership with other donors, he said, had indicated readiness to partner the government with a $19,25 million contribution targeting 77 800 farmers.
Despite the financial undertakings, Zimbabwe might have to import some of the inputs due to shortages locally.
Current statistics indicate that only about 44 000 tonnes of fertiliser would be available against a demand of 400 000 tonnes. Local fertiliser firms have indicated that they are unable to produce enough to meet demand due to liquidity constraints.