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Soya bean shortage looms

A SOYA BEAN shortage is looming in Zimbabwe this season amid indications that farmers dumped the crop due to lack of financing, a move which will have negative implications on the production of cooking oil and stockfeeds.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

John Mangudya
John Mangudya

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president, Wonder Chabikwa told Standardbusiness last week that farmers in the 2016/17 agricultural season dumped soya bean production and embraced maize cropping under the $500 million command agriculture scheme.

“Soya bean has not been grown that much this season as many farmers joined the command agriculture scheme. We are likely to have a shortage of it this season. Most farmers dumped it because there were no financiers,” Chabikwa said.

“As such, we must brace ourselves for that shortfall. This means we will have to import the product but due to foreign currency challenges, we will find ourselves heavily affected.”

Cooking oil producers said the shortage of soya bean in the country spelt doom for their survival.

Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe chairman, Sylvester Mangani said after government subsidised the maize crop with an input scheme and set a very high Grain Marketing Board producer price, it rendered soya bean production non-competitive this year

“The area under soya bean has decreased for the 2016/17 crop as farmers preferred to plant more maize.  A commercial crop of about 20 000 tonnes is projected, which is grossly inadequate given the national demand for soya meal and oil,” he said, adding that oil expressers were looking at increasing their involvement in contract farming for 2017.

“A shortage of soya beans means that the capacity utilisation of our seed crushing and extraction plants reduces, and the amount of crude oil we have to import increases. Also, locally produced soya meal has been reduced, putting pressure on the need for us to import soya beans from neighbouring countries to meet the requirements for stockfeed manufacturers,” Mangani said.

“We will also engage government to consider including soya beans in its command agriculture input support scheme in future growing seasons.”

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Busisa Moyo said incentives similar to those for maize growing were needed for the oilseed sector.

He said the banking sector also needed to focus on programmes that increased the hectarage under soya bean as the crop required significant amounts of irrigation.

“As the oil expressers, we have engaged with the ministry of Industry, Agricultural Marketing Authority and Soya Growers Association to look at strategies that can be employed to grow the hectarage under soya,” said Moyo, who is also the CEO of United Refineries.

Agriculture deputy minister responsible for cropping, Davis Marapira said government would assist farmers with inputs under the command agriculture programme in summer.

“Farmers will be assisted with inputs and machinery so as to improve production. However, if there is shortfall, we encourage manufacturers to import soya bean, not cooking oil,” he said.

Last year, the country was hit by a cooking oil shortage as producers failed to secure key raw materials such as crude (soya) oil from foreign countries due to foreign currency challenges.

Moyo said it should be noted that the soya-value-chain affected the cost of cooking oil, stockfeeds, chicken and other poultry meats, pork and commercially grown fish (for example bream), hence the need to urgently address this to reduce imports.

In 2016, Zimbabwe imported crude soya bean oil worth $119,9 million and the figure is likely to go up this year as few farmers have undertaken soya bean farming.

So far this year, the country has splurged $11,1 million on imports of soya bean oil.

In his latest monetary policy statement, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya said the continued reliance on imports of finished goods was unsustainable as it undermined current efforts to resuscitate domestic industrial production, leading to significant trade and current account deficits.

He said despite efforts being made by government towards containing the country’s import bill, export growth had not been adequate to surpass that of imports.

Mangudya said the current account deficit continued to be mainly financed through private sector offshore loans against the backdrop of subdued direct and portfolio investment in the economy.

“While private sector foreign loans have continued to be a major source of liquidity in the economy since the adoption of the multicurrency system in 2009, they also continue to increase the country’s gearing or leveraging ratio. This scenario is to be improved by encouraging equity as opposed to solely relying on loan finance,” he said.

The production of soya bean has been on the decline in the past decade and the major cause has been the chaotic land reform.

The country’s poorly equipped and ill-financed farmers have failed for more than a decade to produce enough soya beans for oil processors and other industries.

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