Agriculture still in intensive care

Contracting firms, hamstrung by the liquidity crunch, have failed to mobilise resources required to fund production of tobacco and cotton this season, says Zimbabwe Farmers Union Director Paul Zakariya.

According to statistics released by Agritex, maize planted between November and December last year covered 379 993 ha compared to 247 000 ha put under the staple crop this season.

This season, cotton hectarage dipped to 45 000 hectares from 107 727 ha planted last season. Tobacco planted dropped to 39 393 hectares from 43 545 hectares last year.

Soya beans declined from 13 674 ha last year to 5 079 ha, highlighting that haphazard planning by key stakeholders continues to stifle the sector’s growth potential.

Zakariya said about 30 percent of the cotton crop planted was destroyed during the dry spell experienced earlier this season, casting doubt on hopes to produce a target of 286 000 tons of the ‘white gold’ this season.

“Already a third of the cotton crop planted has been destroyed. We know that contractors have no capacity to secure inputs. “Definitely, we are going to have a decline in hectares and yields,” he said.

Without sufficient capital investment into the sector, production would continue to diminish and in turn lead to reduced yields and earnings, Zakariya warned.

“Owing to insufficient funding availed to agriculture and other factors, the viability of the sector is now compromised. As a result, we will certainly not be able to achieve the 12 percent growth projection,” he said.

With a staggering $2 billion required to adequately fund each agricultural season, government has only availed support schemes worth a paltry $226 million during this cropping period.

Efforts to raise $100 million through the Agricultural Marketing Authority failed to yield expected results.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the sector will still significantly contribute to the 9.4 percent growth rate the economy is expected to post this year.

Agriculture, once accounting for 60 percent of the country’s GDP, has proven to be a resilient growth frontier ever since implementation of sweeping reforms in 2009.

Zakariya says with proper coordination and sufficient funding, the sector could propel Zimbabwe’s economy after a decade of contraction.

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