ZIMBABWE is likely to be heading towards another season of failed agriculture production due to the late onset of the rainy season, inadequate supply of inputs and Grain Marketing Board’s failure to pay for maize delivered in the previous marketing season.
The country has experienced perennial maize deficits in the past decade as most of the new farmers faced challenges such as erratic rains, lack of finance, equipment, seed and fertilizers.
This has forced government and international relief agencies to import about 500 tonnes of maize annually to fill in the gap and stave off hunger.
Presenting his 2015 National Budget paper last month, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said Treasury had set aside money for the purchase of strategic grain reserve and $400 000 for cloud seeding.
“Mr Speaker Sir, crop output should critically depend on the weather out turn for the coming 2014/15 season, as well as farmers’ access to inputs,” Chinamasa said.
“Overall inputs availability within the country indicates a marginal deficit, with assurances that this will be met from the local production as well as imports,” he said.
The shortage of imports at this crucial stage on the farming calendar was further exposed last week when Zanu PF members besieged a party-controlled company, LASCH Investments, accusing the company’s management of swindling them and failing to deliver farming inputs as agreed.
“We were promised to receive inputs three days after making a deposit, but now I have been waiting for over a month to get the inputs,” one disgruntled farmer said.
The country’s maize production is further threatened by the new maize pricing regime introduced in August this year.
Statutory Instrument 122/2014 set the maize price at $390 per tonne despite the fact that international markets are selling maize at below $200 a tonne.
University of Zimbabwe economist Ashok Chakravarti says the pricing model is affecting maize trading with no trade being recorded in the past two months.
He suggested that the government could look at having a dual maize pricing model and cautioned that the GMB should be limited in the amount that it is authorised to purchase from an individual farmer.