BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
PREPARATIONS for the 2020/21 cropping season are in jeopardy with prices of inputs skyrocketing, making planning difficult for farmers.
A recent survey by NewsDay Business showed that a 10kg bag of maize seed had shot to between $2 500 and $3 000 while a 25kg bag is selling at $7 000.
A 50kg bag of compound D fertiliser is pegged at $2 300, while top dressing fertiliser now sells at around $2 900.
The price increases are compounding the woes of the already struggling farmers by increasing the costs of production.
The farmers told NewsDay Business that they were now seeking government intervention.
“We are not prepared at all (for the 2020/21 farming season) because costs of inputs are too high. We can’t buy things because they are too expensive. By now, we could have started, but alas, we have not. There is nothing to talk about,” Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president Abdul Nyathi, said.
“There is no control in terms of pricing of farming inputs. Right now, the farmer can’t breathe.”
Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, providing employment and income for 60-70% of the population, supplying 60% of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributing 40% of total export earnings, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
It also contributes approximately 17% to the country’s gross domestic product.
As the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, the performance of agriculture is a key determinant of rural livelihood resilience and poverty levels, FAO said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union vice-president Winston Babbage said most farmers were looking forward to receiving free inputs under the presidential inputs scheme as they could not manage to source inputs on their own.
“A 10kg bag of maize seed is going for $3 000. Who can afford that?” Babbage queried.
He called upon corporates to chip in with inputs under the contract farming scheme.
Another Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union representative Maiwepi Jiti said: “We have a lot of challenges in terms of accessing inputs. It’s really a struggle. Input prices are beyond the reach of many farmers.”
She said the situation had been worsened by the fact that farmers, especially tobacco growers, were not paid enough at harvest to cover their input costs.
For instance, the government was paying tobacco farmers using the fixed exchange rate of US$1:$25 which was later abandoned, yet the same dollar on the parallel market was trading at US$1:80, leaving farmers counting losses.
Growers were entitled to 50% of each sale in forex and the remainder in the inflation-ravaged local currency.
“Farmers are losing a lot of revenue and this is going to affect their planning for the next farming season,” Jiti said.
The Commercial Farmers’ Union official responsible for crops Stewart Wilson said farmers did not have enough money to buy inputs, hence they hoped to be assisted with command inputs.
Wilson also said farmers were struggling to pay employees due to the disruption of mobile money agent lines as some farmers had their money locked in their mobile money accounts.
Government recently banned the use of mobile money agent lines, accusing telecommunication companies of causing the rapid decline of the local unit.
In recent years, according to the country’s central bank, most Zimbabweans have switched from cash to mobile money, with mobile wallets accounting for 84,8% of transaction volumes and 22,6% of value in the last quarter of 2019.
Zimbabwe’s total cereal production this year is expected to decline to 1,06 million metric tonnes (mt), against a national demand of 2,23 million mt, according to the second round crop and livestock assessment report for the 2019/2020 season.
The report revealed that the 2019/2020 season was characterised by late on-set of rains across the country and false starts in the southern and south-eastern parts of the country.