ZIMBABWE still faces a possible poor maize harvest in the 2014/15 agricultural season despite the significant improvement of rain patterns during the festive season as inadequate financing continues to hamper farmers.
Many farmers in Mashonaland provinces, the main maize producing areas in the country, only planted during the week leading to Christmas when meaningful rains started.
Treasury early this week confirmed the grim maize production scenario when it belatedly released $3 million to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for onward payment to farmers who sold grain to the board.
“While it is ideal that farmers get their payment timeously for their various needs, the prevailing liquidity challenges have resulted in government falling behind in payments,” Treasury said in a statement.
GMB still owes farmers a combined $52,4 million for the 255 519 tonnes delivered last season.
Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe (Baz) president Sam Malaba told a Commercial Farmers’ Union annual congress in October that Zimbabwe faced a maize deficit as many farmers were switching from maize production to cash crops since the introduction of multicurrency in 2009.
“The preference towards cash crops has, therefore, undermined food security as increasingly farmers are choosing cash crops over cereal or grain production,” Malaba said.
Banks have since the onset of the land reform programme reduced their agriculture financing due to high default rates and lack of collateral insurance among most of the newly-resettled farmers.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Many farmers have struggled to access seed and fertilizers across the country and recently directors of a Zanu PF-linked company, Lasch Investments, were arrested for duping hundreds of farmers millions of dollars in an inputs scam.
The country has imported 500 000 tonnes to boost the nations maize strategic reserves.
Zimbabwe has also depended more on foreign developmental partners and donor
agencies in the past decade to fill the deficit each year.
Zimbabwe needs two million tonnes of maize annually, but is currently producing just above 1,2 million tonnes.