Zimbabwe should review its agriculture policy to revive the sector, a Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) official has said, warning that lack of capital and poor preparations for the 2014/2015 season could cost the country dearly.
In August, President Robert Mugabe said the country had become self-sufficient with maize and grain production output expected to pass 1.7 million tonnes, the highest in five seasons.
But Charles Taffs, the CFU immediate past president, said preparations for the coming season had been shoddy, with no funding in place to support farmers.
“It’s a crisis because there is no capital. Banks are not forthcoming and because of that we will see tobacco and cotton production shrinking this season. I think the whole thing needs to be relooked. There should be a comprehensive Zimbabwe private limited agenda,” Taffs said.
At CFU’s annual general meeting last week, Taffs urged a rethink of the agricultural policy, particularly its funding model.
“We are completely on the wrong track and are rapidly being left behind, by both the region and the world at large. We need to very quickly create an investor friendly environment, starting with an active land market, the anchor upon which the entire productive chain can depend upon,” he said.
Zimbabwe, which is battling to recover from a decade of economic contraction which ended in 2009, is struggling to finance its productive sectors in the absence of foreign direct investment and aid.
Agriculture – once the backbone of the Zimbabwe economy – was decimated.
Critics blame President Robert Mugabe’s land grab at the turn of the millennium to addressing historical land imbalances government for the sharp decline in agriculture production, while the government in return blames successive droughts and lack of funding.
Taffs said over the last 15 years, primary production in staple crops has relied mainly on donor and government support – creating a dependency syndrome on farmers.
“I must stress that it is not the job of government to fund farming ventures on a donation basis, but rather it is their job to provide a conclusive environment through strong, sound, consistent policy, within which serious farmers can excel.
“Farming cannot be viewed as a weekend past time. It is a serious all year round business and if we want to compete with the wider world we need to move away from policies that have had the net effect of undermining the entire agricultural process,” he said.
The country must create efficient cost effective farm units which would be able to compete with the wider world and attract long term investors, he added.
Last week Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Wonder Chabikwa, said that only a handful of farmers had secured funding ahead of the 2014/2015 season.
“We are lagging behind and this has been worsened by the fact that government has not yet paid farmers who delivered their maize in August. So farmers are having to use their resources,” said Chabikwa.-The Source