ZCFU hopes for better farming season

The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union says it looks forward to a positive agriculture season and national food security through good yields after years of poor harvests.

ZCFU president Wonder Chabikwa told The Zimbabwean that he hoped forecasts of a good rainy season would prove true.

The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum, held in Harare in August, predicted that the whole southern African region would receive normal to above normal rains, with flooding expected in some areas.

However, there were fears that the uneven distribution of rain that has dogged past seasons and wreaked havoc with crops could still be a factor.

“In terms of rainfall, the season looks set to be a good one. We expect to have rains up to March and hopefully this will lead to good yields,” Chabikwa said.

He acknowledged that the start of the season had been tough for farmers due to funding challenges.

“At the beginning, it was very difficult because farmers did not have access to funding. The bulk of the farmers are now in contract farming. Others used their own resources and a few accessed loans,” Chabikwa said.

The ZCFU president said he hoped the finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa would allocate 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture. He said that the government should look into investing in the irrigation sector.

“Hopefully there will be money for irrigation, agricultural equipment and the revamp of irrigation infrastructure,” he said, adding that such investments would help resuscitate winter wheat production.

Farmers have moved away from planting the winter wheat crop, which relies on irrigation, because of poor infrastructure and the high costs of production, which make the local crop more expensive than imports.

Chinamasa, together with agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation minister Joseph Made, recently announced that the government would cease providing free inputs to farmers starting from next season.

“We should follow the model of subsidising inputs used in other countries in the region. Our inputs are too expensive. We will continue to lobby government to subsidise the inputs,” Chabikwa said.

For the 2013/14 season, the government provided $161m of input support to 1.6m households across the country in old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farming areas. The money also covers cover livestock production.

The two ministers said that small-scale commercial farmers in the A2 farming areas and commercial farmers should be funded by commercial banks. But Chabikwa said banks were proving to be an elusive source of finance for the A2 farmers.

According to Chabikwa, banks demand collateral in the form of immovable urban property, which most farmers do not have. The government has resisted calls to give farmers security of tenure, which they can use to borrow money.

Chabikwa said that Zimbabwe should intensify its fight against climate change, which he said made it difficult for farmers to plan properly.

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