Zimbabwe could end up with a poor harvest in the coming season even if it has good rains because farmers will not be able to access the necessary seed and inputs. The Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) Network says only 61 percent of the estimated maize seed requirement of 40 820 tonnes available. This is 52 percent of the maize seed that was available at the same time last year.
In its report, which was released in mid-August, FEWS says farmers may be forced to plant part of their grain and less preferred varieties from the region. Sorghum seed is 12 percent short of national requirements while millet seed is 80 percent short of national requirements. The shortage of groundnut seed is most critical. The nation only has 2 percent of its requirement.
Production will also be hampered by the shortage of cash which means most farmers may not be able to purchase their own seed and fertiliser. Financial support from private agribusinesses has been compromised due to a breach of finance contracts by smallholder farmers during the current marketing season.
FEWS says the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), a major cotton ginning and exporting company, lost millions in potential revenue in the current marketing year as farmers to whom the company had advanced seed, fertiliser and chemical credits last cropping season circumvented the company and sold their cotton to new cotton companies that invested nothing in growing the crop.
Cottco has therefore withdrawn its $3 billion input assistance scheme and is lobbying the government for legislation that will protect such investments in future.
The Grain Marketing Board suffered similar losses from its maize and wheat input support schemes. Some seed houses which supplied the parent seed, chemicals and technical assistance to contracted farmers are having serious problems obtaining the produced maize seed from the farmers who are side-marketing the seed for higher returns.
The price of hybrid maize seed has increased by 645 percent, from $192/kg to about $1 428/kg in the past 12 months. The price of fertiliser has also gone up drastically with ammonium nitrate going up by 38 percent. Compound D has gone up by a higher percentage.