FARMERS are still owed over $28,7 million for the 146 000 metric tonnes of maize they delivered to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) last year as government struggles to fund the agricultural sector due to biting economic challenges, Parliament has been told.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This comes at a time the government has to import 742 226 metric tonnes of maize after a 42% maize yield deficit this year compared to the 2013/14 agricultural season.
The grim picture was revealed by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made when he appeared before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security to speak on the food situation and mitigatory measures against hunger and poor yields that his ministry would take.
The committee chaired by Mashonaland Central MP Damian Mumvuri was told that the over 700 000 maize deficit would have to be covered by imports from neighbouring countries, although all of them except Zambia which has surplus had suffered from drought and floods resulting in low yields and the need for countries like South Africa to import from Brazil.
“The first round crop assessment report indicated we planted 1 531 000 hectares of maize, but 300 000 hectares were a write-off, and for millet we planted 182 000 hectares and 14 000 hectares were a write-off, while for sorghum we planted 200 000 hectares and 31 000 hectares were a write-off,” Made said.
“Generally, there was a decrease in the planted areas under cereals as compared to the 2013/14 agricultural production season, and the second round has indicated that maize production is down by 49% giving us a balance of 742 226 metric tonnes compared to last year.”
He said in terms of payment for grain delivered by farmers, this year had been better as he had already paid $57 million out of
$85,9 million, leaving a balance of $28,7 million.
Made said the GMB was now inundated with farmers demanding payment or their grain back.
He said in order to boost agricultural production government had sought lines of credit for purchase of irrigation mechanisation development equipment from the More Food Africa programme by Brazil, India and South Korea.
“Government secured loans worth $96,6 million under the More Food Africa programme and what has arrived is $38 million worth of equipment to enhance small holder farmer capacity. Each province with the exception of one will have eight projects.
“The India Exim facility is expected to have $20 million devoted to mechanisation equipment for A2 farmers and $40 million devoted to irrigation. The South Korea facility is $100 million for mechanisation and will come in tranches of $10 million for A2 farmers.”
Made said the equipment would not be dished out for free adding farmers will have to pay for it.
He said there were several other irrigation and farm input schemes, adding it was important for the cost of production to come down and that farmers be paid timeously to enable them to prepare for the next farming season.
He said climate change had impacted badly on farming, making it necessary to emphasise irrigation and mechanisation programmes, as well as cloud seeding.
Climate change was also said to have caused outbreaks of pests and diseases and floods destroying crops and livestock.