Country misses maize production target

Zimbabwe has failed to hit its target of putting 1.7m hectares of land under the country’s staple maize crop for the 2013-2014 farming season due to a shortage of funding, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president, Wonder Chabikwa, has said.

Government had set a target for maize and a 400,000-hectare target for small grains such as sorghum and millet. The government wanted maize production of up to 2.2m metric tonnes, which would be enough to meet the country’s food needs.

The fear is now that the country will endure another year of maize imports. Chabikwa, however, told The Zimbabwean that he remained confident the country could still produce the tonnage.

“We can get two tonnes a hectare and with that we can still reach our target,” he said, pointing out that weather experts were expecting good rainfall despite a countrywide dry spell of almost three weeks.

“The meteorological office is still insisting that we will have normal to above normal rains this season,” he said.

Chabikwa attributed the issue to farmers’ now perennial problems with poor funding.

“The main issue is that funding for this season was limited. We only had the presidential well-wishers input scheme but, other than this, farmers went into the season under very difficult conditions,” he said.

Government provided $161m to buy inputs for the current season, supplying 1.6m households, mainly communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farmers.

Some of the farmers, including the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, have described the support as inadequate. ZFU reportedly said the current level of financial support would not be enough to boost agricultural production to the desired level.

Added to the limited funding, farmers also face high costs of production due to high charges by utility providers such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

ZFU said that the farm mechanisation programme carried out by the Central Bank under the direction of the former governor, Gideon Gono, had benefited fewer than 10,000 farmers out of a total of about 3m.

The ZFU said that $2 to $3bn was required to revive the country’s agricultural production.

The agricultural sector has been calling for financial sector reform and for government to introduce land tenure so that banks could offer affordable credit to farmers.

Another problem is that many farmers are now burdened by huge debts that they cannot repay.

Post published in: News
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