Buhera Central legislator Ronald Muderedzwa says agriculture is key to the country’s economic revival but farmers are being let down by the late delivery of inputs which are distributed in November, December or January.
“It is not good enough to provide farmers with inputs in November, December or January because that season will have elapsed. I am urging the hon. Minister to say this time around, let it be planned such that the farmers get inputs much earlier, September or October is ideal not the trend that we have gone through for the last period,” Muderedzwa said in his contribution to the debate on the mid-term fiscal policy review.
He said he was concerned that Zimbabwe was importing maize from Zambia and Malawi yet small scale farmers in Zimbabwe could grow adequate maize if they were given inputs on time.
Zimbabwe’s food problems have been blamed on its land reform programme yet during the first decade of independence Zimbabwe was able to feed itself and had enough reserves to feed the nation for more than three years.
Its small grains could last the country eight years.
The bulk of the maize was produced by communal farmers, and not by commercial farmers whose land was taken over during the land reform programme.
Production by small scale farmers rose from 10 percent at independence to 60 percent by 1986.
Trouble started when the International Monetary Fund advised Zimbabwe to get rid of its grain reserves and keep cash instead because the reserves were costing the Grain Marketing Board too much.
MR. MUDEREDZWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, for giving me the opportunity to make my contribution to the Minister’s Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review Statement. Let me begin by thanking the Minister for coming up with this statement at a very difficult time in terms of how our economy is performing. I would like to thank him as he has tried his level best to come up with at least policies that can drive the economy towards growth but there are certain areas that I would like to highlight.
Most of the areas have been highlighted by other speakers that spokebefore me. I would like to start by agreeing with the Minister that the overall economic growth performance of 1. 5% in a situation where we have planned for 3.2% is not good performance at all. Something should be done to ensure that we stimulate that economic growth rate.
I will start with agriculture. I am concerned with importation of maize from Zambia, Malawi and other places. I would like to thank the Minister for realizing that there is need to support small scale farmers so that we can also grow maize in adequacy but my worry is that each and every year, the farmers receive these inputs late. It is not good enough to provide farmers with input in November, December or January because that season will have elapsed. I am urging the hon. Minister to say this time around, let it be planned such that the farmers get inputs much earlier, September or October is ideal not the trend that we have gone through for the last period.
I would also like to make a comment on tobacco. I am concerned with agriculture because agriculture comes second from mining in terms of stimulating growth in this country. I applaud the Minister for supporting contracting farming especially in the area of tobacco but we should also realise that, there are individual farmers who would like to grow as individual farmers. We should not direct most of energy on contract farming because we realise that of recent, the people who are doing this contracting farming, if not the companies from China, Asia and other places, are the white farmers who used to be the owners of those pieces of land. They have come back in earnest and we are not at all comfortable having them as the people who are doing the farming the people who are doing the farming. We would like to ensure that our indigenous farmers are supported so that they are able to do farming.
Along this reasoning, I would like to say Agribank is the bank that they should support to ensure that we grow. The 30 million that was provided to Agribank by way of capitalization is not enough. We need more funds to be directed to Agribank.
If I happen to talk about marketing of tobacco, you will realise that the public auction system is slowly dying because it appears as if Government is supporting the contract farming system and the contract marketing system. This is against logic Mr. Speaker Sir, because all crops across the world are sold at a public auction. So why is it that we are now pursuing the contract farming practice as if it is the bastion of our farming programmes. We need to ensure that individual farmers are given support so that they grow and in that process, we are going to develop as a nation.
I would also like to touch on the aspect of the One Stop Shop Investment Centre. Mr. Speaker Sir, the Minister indicated that the concept was started in December 2010, now it is July 2015; we have not concluded. The respective ministries have not seconded their staff to form this investment centre. It is very difficult in this country to form a company and operate. There are a lot of papers that should be filled from different ministries; you run from one ministry to the other. It might be different from other countries where things are done at one place. We need to get rid of the paper dragon in this country. We need to simplify systems so that we are able to perform better as a nation.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I would also want to touch on the aspect of how our economy is performing in terms of how it is generating national income. It is not good enough for us to depend heavily on taxation, we need foreign direct investment. We need an injection in our economy so that the economy grows. In that respect, it is prudent for our Government to make sure that we re-look at our investment policies. I am happy that the Hon. Minister has you have come up with the Joint Venture Bill, eventually maybe when it is in operation; it is going to attract investors because it has got a cocktail of ways in which people can invest. We need to relook at our investment policy because it is the one that is deterring investors into Zimbabwe, if you compare with what is happening in other countries that are next to us.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to touch on the energy sector. I am happy that there are a number of initiatives that are taking place in terms of the energy generation but I take concern that the Rural Electrification Authority is being underfunded by ZESA. The six percent that is given is not enough. Right now, if we look at the projections of this year, it is supposed to be given 6 million but of late, it has been given 1.5 million REA is underfunded, it is being given 6% of what ZESA is earning and we are saying it is possible to increase this figure to 10% so that REA is shouldered with the responsibility of ensuring that power is given to people in the rural areas. We cannot talk of development when we look at urban areas only. Some of us come from rural areas and my constituency is in the rural areas where there is no electricity. When rural business centres do not have electricity, it means that economic activity in those respective areas is not pronounced. So, the Minister should relate with his counterparts in Government so that at least there is a re-look at what REA is getting from ZESA.
I do also want to look at transport in terms of what ZINARA is doing. It is doing a lot of good work to the rural district councils, urban councils including DDF.