Deon Theron, the president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), has warned the country’s food security situation would not improve in the 2010/11 agricultural season, as it has started with about 100 members of the farmer representative body still unable to farm.
CFU represents the interests of large-scale commercial farmers in Zimbabwe.
Sadc climate experts last week predicted good rains for the 2010/11 agricultural season, and farmers have already started making cropping decisions and other preparations.
Theron said the 100 CFU members were still to return to productive farming as they are still embroiled in protracted land ownership disputes, which also threaten agriculture financing and general investor confidence.
“Farm evictions should be bought to finality as it does not give any investor confidence,” Theron said.
He said the affected farmers have had their cases deferred to this month.
This, he said, would affect the country’s agriculture output, including food production, perpetuating its import dependency.
“Farmers will not be able to provide enough food for the country if the issue of land tenure is not solved. The country will continue to import. The longer the dispute drags, the longer it will take for agriculture to recover.”
But the country’s economic planners have revised the next agricultural production upwards to 18,8% from 10%, despite agriculture financing challenges.
Theoron said the funding constraints and the lack of collateral security to secure bank credit have left farmers with only one option — contract farming.
Under the arrangement, a farmer receives farming inputs, implements and maintenance and repair services from buyers to which they are contractually obliged to sell their produce.
They are not allowed to sell their produce on auction floors.
“Contract farming has played a major role especially in tobacco farming and the country should not rely on it for the agricultural sector to thrive. Farmers should be able to access their own finance from banks,” Theron said.
“But the problem with this arrangement is that it locks farmers in a trap to sell their produce to the supplier of the agricultural inputs,” Theron said.