Why Zimbabwe farmers are not growing maize

Farmers have stopped growing maize because the Grain Marketing Board takes up to two years to pay them, the Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West Temba Mliswa said. Besides, the farmers get a lower price that the government pays to import maize.

“The government is paying $430.00 to import maize and that $430.00 is paid instantly. Our own farmers are being paid $380.00 and it is taking two years for them to get that money,” Mliswa said in parliament recently.

The deputy Minister of Agriculture Davis Marapira said two days ago that the government was targeting to put 1.6 million hectares under maize to produce 2.2 million tonnes next season. He also said the government had provided $161 million for inputs for farmers.

Mliswa said farmers did not need inputs from the government. They wanted to be paid money for their maize so that they could buy their own inputs.

“We have farmers who have not been paid for two years and we have farmers who have decided to grow food for their own homes. They are not prepared to grow food and sell to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

“For as long as GMB is not capacitated to pay the farmers, the aspect of food security will remain a problem. I say so because government owes GMB US$44 million and that $44 million is needed by GMB to pay the farmers.

“The constituency which I represent, Hurungwe West, is a constituency that has rural farmers and what these farmers are asking for is money for their maize. They are not asking for free inputs, they are asking for the money that they are owed by GMB so that they can pay for their children’s fees and look at their medical expenses and so forth.”

Mliswa also said it was important to introduce command agriculture to address the current food shortage.

“In terms of agriculture, there is need to have what we call ‘command agriculture’. Command agriculture is more or less saying to the beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme that they need to grow at least 2 to 5 hectares of maize. Without us coming with that proposition, we will continue to import maize.”

Mliswa also drew interjections when he said it was time to stop blaming sanctions for the country’s problems. He asked why the government was complaining about sanctions but was at the same time empowering those that countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe by buying products like cars from them instead of having them assembled at Willowvale and creating jobs.

 

Below is his full contribution:

MR. MLISWA: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. First of all, I would like to congratulate His Excellency for his election into office.

Secondly, my contribution to the Speech is on issues of implementation. His Excellency’s Speech and vision that he has for the country is pretty clear. The aspect of agriculture is something that needs to be looked into. Of late, agriculture has declined and it is the mining sector that has taken over in terms of the growth of the economy.

Zimbabwe cannot allow a situation whereby the economy is sustained by natural resources which in time will certainly diminish. Agriculture is an area which we need to look at.
First of all, it is pretty clear that there needs to be support in terms of agriculture and rehabilitation of the infrastructure. We also need prices before we go into the fields – knowing exactly what the farmer will get.

I will specifically touch on our staple food which is maize. The rate at which we are importing maize clearly cannot help us in the aspect of food security. Mr. Speaker Sir, the price that is being offered to the farmers for maize locally is something that needs to be looked into.

The Government is paying $430.00 to import maize and that $430.00 is paid instantly. Our own farmers are being paid $380.00 and it is taking two years for them to get that money. It is a situation that the minister needs to address so that the vision that the President has of food security is met.

We have farmers who have not been paid for two years and we have farmers who have decided to grow food for their own homes. They are not prepared to grow food and sell to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

For as long as GMB is not capacitated to pay the farmers, the aspect of food security will remain a problem. I say so because Government owes GMB US$44 million and that $44 million is needed by GMB to pay the farmers.

The constituency which I represent, Hurungwe West, is a constituency that has rural farmers and what these farmers are asking for is money for their maize. They are not asking for free inputs, they are asking for the money that they are owed by GMB so that they can pay for their children’s fees and look at their medical expenses and so forth.

So, it is quite clear that the implementation of this agricultural reform by the Minister would assist in a number of issues.

On the issue of dams, we need more dams, Mr. Speaker Sir. The water that is in the country needs to have points where dams can be created. We have a lot of water that is going into the Zambezi River and that water can be used in this country for agricultural purposes.

We have substantial water sources in the country but without us having water catchment areas, it becomes difficult. The current dams are also losing a lot of water. While they are losing a lot of water, there are no new dams which are being put in place.

From a statistics point of view,it is important that information is available at the ZimStat Centre. This information will help us not to reinvent the wheel. I say so because on the dam situation, you have got a dam which was supposed to be built by the CFU, it was to be called the Mhondoro B Dam.

This dam would help areas like Chegutu and Kadoma. Chegutu and Kadoma are prime areas to grow citrus fruits. The Mazowe Citrus that we have, from a climatic situation is not the right place because you need a place which is hot and as you go towards Chegutu and Kadoma, these are areas in which citrus fruits would do very well.

It is important that information is availed and resources permitting, it is important for us to relook into the Mhondoro B Dam. On the agriculture aspect, we cannot allow a situation where the market becomes Mbare. Farmers in Mutoko believe that the market must be Mbare.

Mr. Speaker Sir, we must go beyond that. In 1995, two tomato processing plants were set up, one in Norton and another in Bulawayo. The one in Norton was Zagrinda. Zagrinda would do 240 tonnes of tomatoes per day which is eight truck loads. There was already a 65% up-take of those tomatoes being bought by an Italian company.

What I mean is that there was a market and that 60% of those tomatoes processed would end up in a country which needed them. We have failed to get our own tomatoes processed so that the farmers are able to generate income and some foreign currency from the 65% up-take which would go to these countries.

The issue of the Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant is an issue which touches on the aspect of empowerment and indigenisation. It is important for us to understand who controls that asset. Is it an individual or Government? It is a very strategic asset for us not to allow an individual to control because ethanol, as you know becomes a source of energy for the country.

You do not want a situation where an individual controls that asset and the day he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, he then decides not to supply the country with ethanol. I would implore the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment to look into the agreements that have been mooted, that Government owns 51% shareholding in that. It remains to be seen whether that has been done or has not been done.

The aspect of power in the agricultural sector is quite key. Already we are in the tobacco season and the irrigated tobacco that is supposed to have been planted right now, we have not achieved the targets that we need because of the power cuts which the farmers are experiencing.

It is therefore imperative that the aspect of energy is looked into and we have a lasting solution to this. That goes for wheat as well. You cannot grow wheat without being guaranteed of that power which is needed to irrigate the field. It is important that ZESA comes up with a plan that would more or less give the guarantee to the farmers to be able to grow and plan.

It goes without saying that farming has a lot to do with planning but you plan when you know exactly how the power is going to be available. There is no way that a farmer can plan without knowing the price and where the power is going to come from. The aspect of having power cuts is something that the Government needs to look into.

In terms of agriculture, there is need to have what we call ‘command agriculture’. Command agriculture is more or less saying to the beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme that they need to grow at least 2 to 5 hectares of maize. Without us coming with that proposition, we will continue to import maize. I encourage in the implementation of agriculture that command agriculture be looked into because I think we will be able to deal with maize shortages that we have.

On manufacturing and empowerment, I think it is important that we walk the talk. Here, we are seated and I hasten to say that surely it cannot all be sanctions everyday –

[HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

Buying Ford which is a British car has nothing to do with sanctions. Buying Range Rover which is a British car has nothing to do with sanctions. Buying Mercedes Benz which is a German car has nothing to do with sanctions.

Madam Speaker Ma’am, we have to grow our industry. Willowvale Motor Industries is not producing cars. There is unemployment at the highest level. The very same Ford cars which I am even driving must be manufactured at Willowvale Motor Industries –

[HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

We cannot say that there are sanctions but we are giving –

[HON MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, hon. members I think we should behave ourselves.

MR. MLISWA: We are empowering the very same countries that have given us sanctions with money. There are sanctions but why are we buying cars from them? The Germans, why are we buying cars from them? Quite clearly, while we have sanctions we cannot empower the same countries with money. It does not make sense.

The President discussed the issue of zero tolerance to corruption. Zimbabwe is endowed with resources – resources which can assist in terms of bringing the stability that we need at this point. I would like the Ministry of Mines to come up with a way of attracting money to agriculture. Where there is no agriculture, there is no mining. What I mean by this is that any mining house that comes into this country must put a certain percentage into agriculture.

I say this Madam Speaker Ma’am, because clearly, there is no reason why we should be saying that there is no money for agriculture and yet we have resources. What we really need is to prioritize agriculture and that way, we will have dealt with the aspect of food security.

The amount of money that the country is spending on importation of grain is unbelievable. If you go around the shops today, most of the goods are not from Zimbabwe. We are using this money to strengthen other economies and not our economy.

It is therefore important that the President’s Address is a vision which is noble. It is a vision which His Excellency has given to Government to implement. We need a time frame on when things should be done. We can no longer have a situation where we have things being
prolonged and we do not know when they will end. The problems that our people have gone through because of sanctions are problems which I think need to be revisited with home grownsolutions. –

[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

If you go to South Africa, most of the blue chip companies are owned by Zimbabweans. They are strengthening the economy in South Africa but we still have some people who are able to do that. It is important that the aspect of brain drain is addressed in that we give people tasks which they implement and then allow the economy to grow.

Without that, there will certainly be brain drain. People cannot keep on waiting for things to happen. We have got people who graduated from the University of Zimbabwe who cannot get jobs. They can only get jobs when the economy is growing. Madam Speaker Ma’am, it goes without saying that there must be an opportunity for one to follow.

Somebody must see that upon completion of education, one will get a job. The Government has done well in ensuring that education remains a priority in the country. Not only that, we are also one of the top countries in Africa in terms of the literacy level. That again, is something that we need to tap into to see how best we can use that intellect that we have.

Madam Speaker Ma’am, the aspect of research is key. From an agriculture point of view, we need a situation where we get the right climate report. We need to know from the meteorological department that when they say it is going to rain, it will rain. When there is drought, we must as well know so that problems are mitigated within that time.

So we need a situation where we get the right information in terms of the weather. We need in rural areas to have weather stations where farmers are told the right information about the rain.

The constituency which I come from is rural. If you recall hon. members, maize production in this country was never done by commercial farmers. It was done by the rural farmers. Rural farmers contributed to the food production of this country. We seem to have forgotten that the rural farmers are out there and we also need to invest in agriculture in the rural areas.

Madam Speaker Ma’am, I would like to associate myself with the former Hon. Member of Parliament, Dr. Kereke on the NSSA fund. –

HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

NSSA is awash with money on the market –

[HON MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order.

MR. MLISWA: I think it is important that the money is seen in areas which certainly need some capitalization. On the aspect of empowerment which the President alluded to, it has got to be broad based in a true sense. Empowerment cannot be for a few people –

[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

Madam Speaker Ma’am, the vision the President has in empowerment is that it must get to –

[HON MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order. Let us have order in the House. You can continue with your debate.

MR. MLISWA: Madam Speaker Ma’am, it is important that empowerment reaches the ordinary person in the rural areas. At times, it is not a bargain wanting to be shareholders. It is about having good health care, education and good roads. Without good roads being improved, it becomes very difficult for people to associate themselves with empowerment programmes which are there.

It remains a noble idea and I am sure that the new Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment will perfect the model. The model can be perfected considering the vision of the President to ensure that it is broad based and it is met.

Madam Speaker, on the aspect of development, we need to also champion the aspect of agriculture, from how to capacitate farms with irrigation. We need to ensure that farms have got state-of-the-art equipment from a mechanisation point of view.

Madam Speaker, to echo and support the President in terms of agriculture, we need to have mechanisation relooked at in the farms. We cannot have old mechanisation systems; they have got to be replaced with new mechanisations.

The irrigation aspect is something that we need to relook at as well. We need to have irrigation that will save water. The current methods of irrigation certainly lose a lot of water; as a result there is soil erosion which is resulting from that. The aspect of centre pivots will certainly assist in the management of water and avoid the soil erosion which is happening.

Madam Speaker, it goes without saying that the Presidential address is a vision of His Excellency, which always has been excellent. His Excellency has contributed immensely to this country through the vision that he has. All that is left is the people who have to take the action on time because the constituencies that we come from are waiting for us to deliver in line with the Presidential address.

I thank you.

(93 VIEWS)

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