The Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) which comprises government, employers and labour and is now spearheading the economic recovery of the country, seems to have endorsed the current agrarian reform but says those allocated land should make full use of it with the government assuring farmers viable producer prices through a system of pre-planting and post-harvest price announcements. It has also called on the government to implement immediate policy measures to stimulate horticultural exports and the production of agricultural foodstuffs and raw materials required in the domestic market.
A paper presented by the business community said that the horticultural industry earned only US$5 to $6 million in 1985/6. Massive promotion efforts, however, saw the construction of greenhouses, processing and packaging plants during the remainder of the 1980s and the 1990s pushing up export growth which peaked at US$300 million towards the end of the 1990s.
But due to lack of sustained export support, the slow pace of introduction of indigenous players and the haphazard manner in which some of the farms were acquired, export offtake declined to between 20 and 30 percent of potential. The government is therefore asked to quickly ensure that land, production and processing facilities available for horticulture are fully utilised or re-allocated to those more financially and technically able among the new farmers.
The paper says most horticultural crops can easily secure forward contracts where payments are made in advance before the maturity of the crop, thus generating foreign currency immediately for the country. It also complaints about the low land take-up rates and low land utilisation under the A2 model. It says this is threatening food security at a time of general rain shortfalls in most regions.
The business sector recommends that land that is not being used or has not been taken should be quickly reallocated to those with enthusiasm and proven financial resources to quickly take over and grow short variety crops such as dwarf maize, beans, rapoko, to catch up with the current season.
It also says under-utilised irrigation facilities, including dams and equipment, should be reallocated. The business sector also says the current land allocation system has not generally focussed on livestock farming when the country can earn over US$100 million a year on beef alone. It says the 300 to 400 ha. normal for A2 farms in the relatively disease free provinces has largely focussed on cropping with little regard for grazing land requirements especially for cattle.
It therefore recommends that government either reviews maximum sizes for farms to accommodate cattle or allows genuine livestock investors to purchase extra land to augment hectarages under the normal A2 farm size.