Getting Agriculture right as a matter of urgency

I sincerely hope that our minister of agriculture Dr. Made, is having sleepless nights.

Zimbabwe needs about 1.8 million tonnes of maize a year to ensure that the nation has adequate food supplies. In 2000, we produced just over 2million tonnes and the estimate for 2013 is a mere 790.000 tonnes. There will be s shortfall of about a million n. At an average cost of US$300 per tonne we need US$300 million.

The problem is that there is not enough maize in the region and we do not allow GMO from the West. The Zambian import deal that hit headlines last year, has been scuttled because we have not paid and Zambia has now sold elsewhere to the highest bidder for cash. I would do the same thing.

Now, I am not an expert on agriculture, we have plenty of those, but I know that our first problem is that nobody has a clear and objective picture of what is really happening in agriculture on the ground. So surprise, surprise we do not know the extent of the problem that we have, all we know is that there is not enough maize.

Our first response should therefore to put together experts, task force, to investigate and give us the correct and honest picture on the ground. No time for politics because people will starve. This same group can then come up with funding solutions on how we can at least have adequate maize available now.

The next step would be to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure that this does not happen again next year. That is, we must come up with a production plan for the next season. We cannot rely on government input schemes each and every year. After all, these always turn out to be a partisan exercise, where anyone who claims to be ZANU(PF) is given seed even if the agriculture region they come from is not good for growing maize. It is wasteful and inefficient.

We must also see the minister coming out strongly on further farm invasions, they must stop immediately. For goodness , how can farmers plant not knowing whether they will be able to harvest? We simply cannot afford any uncertainties at this juncture.

On the issue of tobacco growers, they should no longer get any support instead we should support those who grow food. The logic here is that our industrial base benefits more from food crops than from tobacco. In order to revive our agro industry, we need to incentivize farmers to grow inputs for industry. It creates jobs, cuts food imports and ensures food security. The benefits far outweigh growing tobacco whose proceeds are quickly spent at the auction floors. You simply must go to the tobacco auction floors to see what these tobacco growers buy as soon as they get paid.

It is also critical that the GMB becomes empowered as the sole buyer of maize so that we can build adequate reserves on a controlled basis. The GMB must pay on time and not offer good attractive prices to farmers only not pay on time if at all.

This has created a crisis of confidence in the GMB and encouraged private millers who then charge ridiculous prices for the finished product. I even hear that despite the ban of GMO’s, some connected government officials are milling GMO’s in order to profiteer from a bad situation which they have contributed in creating. That is immoral but usual in Zimbabwe, remember 2008?

In my opinion, all this can be put in place within 100 days. We are now past 100 days since elections and I have not heard of any comprehensive solution to agriculture, a critical sector to our recovery.

This is a matter of national security, where is the President?

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions

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