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Inputs shortage threatens command agriculture

GOVERNMENT’S command agriculture scheme, which is aimed at ensuring food self-sufficiency, is under threat as farmers who are supposed to implement it do not have necessary inputs, Standardbusiness has established.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Government recently unveiled a $500 million command agricultural programme under which it aims to produce two million tonnes of maize from 400 000 hectares of land in a move meant to ensure food security and to reduce dependency on imports.

However, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Wonder Chabikwa told Standardbusiness in an interview that farmers were finding it hard to implement the scheme due to shortage of necessary inputs such as Compound D fertiliser.

“Command agriculture, which started off well, is facing challenges in the implementation. We have a serious shortage of Compound D and this is affecting the farmers. They are not able to plant. Local fertiliser manufacturers indicated that they had the capacity to meet demand but they are not,” Chabikwa said.

“We are appealing to the government to allow imports [of fertilisers] even though it’s too late. These companies are failing to meet the demand as they had promised,” he added.

Chemplex Corporation chief executive officer Misheck Kachere, who is also the fertiliser industry spokesperson, declined to comment, saying he was busy.

But he recently told Standardbusiness that fertiliser manufacturers were well-prepared for the 2016/17 farming season.

“Our production plants are ready and we have done all the requirements. As industry, we have 100 000 tonnes of fertiliser, which we can only distribute once we have been paid,” Kachere was quoted as saying.

Agriculture deputy minister (cropping), Davis Marapira, also refused to comment on the matter, referring all questions to his boss Joseph Made, who did not answer his phone.

Deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet who is responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programme, Justin Mupamhanga, said they were working tirelessly to make things right.

“I’m not at work today but what I can tell you is that things are being done to make it better. You can talk to the permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development,” he said on Friday.

Chabikwa said hailstorms which recently hit some areas in the country like Hurungwe, Rusape, Kwekwe and Karoi had destroyed tobacco and maize crops.

However, Chabikwa said some of the crops were in good health and they were looking forward to a good harvest.
Zimbabwe has struggled to provide sufficient food reserves for itself since 2000 after the implementation of the fast-track land reform programme that saw more than 4 000 white commercial farmers being violently pushed off the land.

The new farmers lacked the knowledge and funding to accelerate commercial agriculture as government has failed to bring closure to the land reform programme. The 99-year leases given to farmers have not been appetising to banks to be used as security in securing loans.

The government has initiated a number of agriculture inputs schemes to assist the new farmers, but these have often been abused, with no-one being punished.

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