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Agriculture pillars critical to agric recovery

Inadequate funding, especially long-term loans and capital funds.
Low viability due to low producer prices.
Inadequate farm equipment and irrigation infrastructure.
All our farmers’ unions should work 24/7 to mobilise farmers and lobby for their various requirements including conducive policies on agriculture.

Land
Availability of suitable land is vital for agriculture and the whole farming community is urged to ensure that the land is used wisely following all principles of land conservation so that we become highly productive. Security of tenure should also be looked at critically so that farmers can invest adequately on their farms.

Seed houses and other input suppliers
There are 10 seed companies in Zimbabwe and hard work has been put into breeding adaptable varieties with high yields, disease and drought tolerances. The seed industry managed to produce more than adequate maize seed (+40 000 tonnes).  Seed Co alone produced 22 000 tonnes in 2010 and  there is no need for seed imports into Zimbabwe.  This will save a lot of foreign currency that can be used for other priorities.
Seed is now readily available in almost all shops, hardwares and other agro-dealers. Seed alone carries 20% of the potential yield, the rest is determined by the crop management. Fertilisers supply the essential crop nutrients for crop growth and good yields. Fertiliser and crop chemicals availability has improved quite significantly, most outlets have stocks of fertiliser and crop chemicals.

Finance institutions
Banks have agribusiness units that fund farmers and financing agriculture has been a challenge due to collateral issues.  However, banks have been bold and funded our farmers despite the loan security issues. Suitable long-term loans that cover the crop growth cycles are required and we urge banks to provide farmers with the required working capital as well as capital funding requirements (tractors, implements, centre pivots etc).

Government and extension services
Government has consistently kept agriculture moving forward, even under the hyper-inflation conditions.  This was done through inputs and infrastructure support (seed, fertiliser, tractors and implements). The agriculture sector requests government to continue supporting farmers in order to build their capacity. Agritex plays a pivotal role in the provision of much needed agronomic and other extension support. Agritex also co-ordinates all pillars of agriculture to achieve food security. Other farmer organisations should work with Agritex and the government to execute projects that benefit the farming community and the whole economy.

Agro-dealers
Agro-dealers provide the vital link between input suppliers and the farming community. Inputs and other farm requirements are available in the farming areas (at the door step) through the agro-dealers.
Most agro-dealers stock seed, fertilisers, crop chemicals and farm implements. Farmers should buy their requirements from nearest agro-dealers to reduce on transport and other buying costs. There are a number of initiatives being implemented by NGOs and donors to strengthen agro-dealers through the voucher system.  Lets all support these noble initiatives that will improve farm inputs.

Weather
The rainfall pattern for this country can be a big challenge to the agriculture sector.  This is particularly so in years of drought and poor distribution of the rainfall. Farmers are encouraged to invest in irrigation systems to mitigate the effects of drought and the impact of climate change.
Weather forecasts and their interpretations are key for proper planning of agricultural activities. Agritex and other extension staff should assist farmers to interpret the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Markets
Availability of suitable markets provides a pull factor for growers to produce more and more. All stakeholders must pay competitive prices for the produce from our farmers. Farmers’ unions and others must link all farmers with the markets as this is paramount for continued production. There is need to explore foreign markets for surpluses as the seed sector is at the verge of having surplus seed for exports.

Recommendations
All farmers’ unions should continue mobilising farmers for organised production and lobby for conducive policies on agriculture.
Security of tenure should be quickly addressed so that farmers can invest adequately on their farms.
Seed production, fertiliser and crop chemicals availability should be accessible to farmers timely.
Suitable long-term loans should be extended to farmers.

— Dennis Zaranyika is the managing director of Seed Co Zimbabwe.

 

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