Elita Chikwati and Patrick Chitumba
GOVERNMENT is now engaging seed and fertiliser producers to ensure input costs are affordable to all farmers while working on enhancing domestic production to support transformation of the agriculture sector.
This was said by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Maska in response to farmers’ concerns over “unwarranted price increaes”, especially for maize seed and fertiliser.
Farmers attending the recent 81st Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) congress in Gweru last Friday expressed worry that producer prices were no longer viable as a result of increases in inputs prices.
Most farmers expressed concern over the increase in maize and fertiliser prices, which they said was eroding the producer prices that had been pegged by Government and other buyers.
The farmers said they were no longer breaking even and were now making losses.
This is happening as planting has started in most parts of the country while many farmers have intensified land preparations and inputs procurement.
ZFU president, Mr Abdul Nyathi said most farmers were not enjoying profits from their proceeds while other players along the value chain were making huge profits from the farmers’ produce.
“We surely need to transform our markets to become more favourable to the farmer, if ever we hope to increase production and productivity. It takes all of us; farmers, Government, private sector players, development partners and academia to innovatively transform our agriculture,’’ he said.
The president of young farmers within ZFU, Mr Prosper Chikwara, asked what the Government was doing to cushion farmers from input cost escalation and Dr Masuka acknowledged that seed producers and fertiliser manufacturers had indeed increased prices, but said corrective measures were being taken.
“We were actually discussing this matter with President Mnangagwa and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga that inputs have gone up. Last year, for example, a 10kg bag of maize seed was going for $6 000, but it has now gone up to $17 000. So, seed has gone up and at the moment we want to appeal to seed producers not to increase seed prices,” said Dr Masuka.
“To bring stability to the agriculture sector, we want to localise the production of fertiliser so that in the next three years we don’t hear of importation of fertiliser or ingredients used in the production of the product.
“We are in discussion with some of the seed companies so that they produce more and flood the market. So, we are looking at stabilising the products by making them locally.”
Mr Chikwara had said as a Matabeleland South farmer, he had five hectares under irrigation and was in the process of clearing more land to put under Pfumvudza/Intwasa, but input costs were on the high side.
Dr Masuka said Government’s grand plan was to ensure that within the next three years, the country has a vibrant fertiliser and seed production base to curb imports.
He assured farmers that the Government would further engage seed producers and that corrective action would be taken.
Agriculture experts also contend that price stability on farming inputs along with improved farming practices such as Pfumvudza/Intwasa are key ingredients in increasing productivity levels in the sector.
ZFU secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya said it was critical to have affordable inputs as it will allow more farmers to engage in production.
Agronomist Mr Tawanda Mangisi concurred: “The prices of inputs have to be affordable for us to have more people taking up farming. If prices are affordable, it will mean more yields for the country.”
The country is targeting another bumper harvest this season following a historic yield in maize production recorded from the 2020-2021 farming season.
Meanwhile, farmers have intensified land preparations and planting as result of the recent rains.
Agritex latest report states that input procurement and land preparations are expected to intensify with the rains that have been received in some parts of the country.
“These rains have affected the harvesting of the late-planted wheat crop. Incidences of veld fires have declined across the country.
“There should be an improvement in the water availability for human and livestock consumption with the rains receives in places,” said Agritex director Mr Stancilae Tapererwa.
The report also noted that a total of 4 629 staff have been trained under Pfumvudza/Intwasa and 2 071 677 farmers have been trained.