Zim fights to regain bread basket status

AS ZIMBABWE bids to end years of food imports, bullish agriculture experts said yesterday that it was possible for the country to regain its lost “bread basket of Africa” status if authorities implemented policies that would increase production on farms, the Daily News reports.

Speaking at the unveiling of the second edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Sector Survey, which is run by the country’s biggest business paper, The Financial Gazette, and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (Zas), the experts said increased production would end food shortages.
This comes as the government recently signed a US$3, 5 billion Global Compensation Agreement with white former commercial farmers, while also announcing that all farmers who lost their land protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) would either be compensated or have their land titles restored.
“The need for timely and accurate information to support farmers has become imperative in the government’s efforts to transform agriculture and food systems.
“We are working towards re-modelling Agribank and this is a precursor which shows that we are committed to supporting agriculture.
“Agriculture occupies a central place in the Zimbabwean economy, contributing between eight and 15 percent of gross domestic product.
“In addition, it contributes over 40 percent of our export earnings and about 60 percent of raw materials to agro-industries,” the Agriculture ministry permanent secretary, John Basera, said.
He also said that there was a need for collaboration between the government and private sector players to improve agricultural production, cut imports and stimulate productivity through providing raw materials for industry.
“The bulk of our industries depend on agriculture for inputs. For them to produce at full capacity, they must access cheaper, locally produced raw materials, which ultimately has a bearing on the price of goods.
“Our strategy as government is to pursue import substitution. We are, therefore, compelled to play our part in helping the government to preserve foreign currency, which can then be deployed to other critical areas,” Basera said.
“With initiatives like these, and with support from private sector-led strategies like the one we are witnessing today, the future of agriculture is bright.
“I want to urge participants present here to continue working together as a people to achieve food security.
“In fact, we should now desist from calling it food security and it should be food self-sufficiency because you can still ensure food security while importing 100 percent,” he added.
Basera said the second edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Sector Survey would go a long way in ensuring that agriculture was equipped with factual and reliable information.
CBZ chief executive, Blessing Mudavanhu, said the over reliance on imports was destroying the country’s competitive advantage.
“It’s disappointing that we have everything going about agriculture, but at the same time the performance is bad and we are net importers.
“It’s also exciting that we are doing something about this. We need to begin to address import substitution.
“We cannot import things that we can produce because it kills competitive advantage,” Mudavanhu said.
This comes as Zimbabwe is bidding to have a US$8, 5 billion agriculture economy by 2025 — as part of restoring the
country to its former bread basket of Africa status.
Zimbabwe is still reeling from its chaotic agrarian reforms which were carried out two decades ago, after the late former president Robert Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum and ordered the seizure of white-owned farms as punishment for them supporting the opposition.
The chaotic land seizures of 20 years ago, which were characterised by violence, disrupted production on the farms — leading to many years of hunger. It also led to Zimbabwe becoming a pariah state.

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