Farmers fret over agric inputs price hikes

Source: Farmers fret over agric inputs price hikes | The Herald October 30, 2017

Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
FARMERS are fretting over the marked increase in prices of agricultural inputs in retail outlets, including the timing of the hikes, which they say could negatively affect prospects for a good 2017/18 summer cropping season. However, Government believes that the price increases, especially for fertilisers, are only affecting the imported product. The price of locally manufactured fertilisers, Government says, has remained stable.

A survey by The Herald showed that prices of seed, fertilisers and agricultural machinery spare parts have gone up. A 2kg bag of maize seed now costs between $6 and $6,50, up from $5 last season. Fertiliser prices, which had gone down to about $27 per 50kg bag in the 2016/2017 summer cropping season, have since risen to between $31 and $37,50 for the same quantity.

Manufacturers are currently inundated by complaints and enquiries from concerned farmers. Last week, the industry’s spokesperson, Mr Tapiwa Mashingaidze, said though manufactures had not increased the price of the commodity, some companies were affected by the increase in the price of packaging materials. The increase, he said, seems to have been passed to consumers.

“We have received reports of unusual movements on the retail prices of fertilisers,” said Mr Mashingaidze.
“There are some things that have changed, for instance, the price of packaging material, and some of the producers have passed on this increase to the consumer. The biggest tonnage of the fertiliser we are producing is going to Government input programmes such as Command Agriculture and the Presidential Well Wishers Agricultural Inputs Scheme, and these have fixed prices. It does not make sense for us to hike prices for the remaining product,” he said.

It is the retail sector that has increased prices, and not manufacturers, he said, adding that Government needs to look at the issue on a case-by-case basis. There is suspicion that the some retailers arbitrarily hiked prices without any justification. Mr Mashingaidze said:“There is anxiety as some people are just thinking that fertilise is in short supply. There could be some temporary shortage in a specific shop, but this does not mean the product is in short supply.

“We have received foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and all major fertiliser manufacturing companies — ZFC, Windmill and Omnia — are operating at full capacity. The fertiliser industry has been receiving foreign currency from the central bank’s $600 million facility.

“Of course, there are times when we have had delays in the release of foreign currency, but right now we are busy producing to avert shortages. We will not experience shortages if we continue to get fertiliser allocations,” he said. Government recently set up a taskforce chaired by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to look into the recent spate of price hikes on the market. But Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha told The Herald last week that the committee’s terms of reference were specifically to examine prices for basic commodities, and not fertiliser.

“The taskforce was meant to look into prices of basic commodities such as floor, sugar and cooking oil — especially cooking. And the price of these commodities is now coming down.