Farmers dispute growth targets

The Commercial Farmers Union has disputed predictions by finance Minister Tendai Biti, in his budget presentation on Thursday, that the agricultural sector would grow by 11.6%.

A queue of farmers waiting to sell their tobacco on the first day of the selling season.
A queue of farmers waiting to sell their tobacco on the first day of the selling season.

CFU president Charles Taffs told The Zimbabwean the Union would be happy to know where the Minister was getting his figures from, given the hectarage of maize planted and the default rate by tobacco farmers this season.

“As far as we know, around a million hectares of land has been placed under maize this season and output will be between 500-800 million metric tones – based on historical output figures. As for tobacco, there is likely to be little financing this year because there has been an 80% default rate by farmers who borrowed last season and this ultimately will result in reduced output,” said Taffs.

Finance in Zimbabwe is very expensive, according to Taffs, and there is no clear policy to help new farmers.

“Our situation has made it difficult for anybody to bring money into the country and when they finally decide to take the plunge, the risk is just too high.

Fertilizer and other input producers are finding it hard to push sales because nothing is happening, and they will go under if something is not done quickly.

It is surprising that the Minister projects over 10% growth in the sector,” he said. While presenting the 2012 budget, Biti projected an 11.6% growth for the agricultural sector, driven by maize and tobacco.

Biti said the country’s grain reserves of 500 000 metric tones had been achieved and was setting aside money for grain procurement only as a precautionary measure. – Kingstone Ndabatei

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