HARARE – The recent wave of price increases that has been sweeping across the country has not spared the country’s agricultural sector, without doubt the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy.
Prices of farming inputs — especially those for seed and fertiliser — virtually shot through the ceiling.
A 20kg bag of maize seed, which was previously priced at slightly over $30 went up by over 300 percent to over $100 for the same quantity of seed.
Although government has intervened, causing the price hike to be slashed by half, the cost remains prohibitive, especially for rural subsistence farmers.
Although some people argue that the rural farmer may not feel the pinch as, time and again, government comes in with free inputs, the truth is they will as most will try to avert failed seasons by sourcing their own inputs.
As such, these hikes in the price of the majority of crop seed — and of course farming equipment spares — have dealt a fatal blow on a season that has already been dampened by prospects of an El Nino-induced drought.
Zimbabwe’s economy is agro-based, buoyed — of course — by mining if mineral prices like platinum, gold, diamonds and chrome among others remain stable on the world market.
When prices of seed and other inputs go up therefore, this has untold ramifications on the agricultural sector as a whole, with calamitous impacts on downstream industrial processes that rely on agriculture for survival.
The government purse, cash-strapped and heavily indebted, had been spared the excess cost of looking for food following bountiful harvests from the last farming season.
It would be another rags to riches tale if all of a sudden, government will be forced to start sourcing funds to finance food imports caused by a failed season.
Failure occasioned by natural factors like the El Nino phenomenon are beyond human control but which results from a combination of that and prohibitive input prices is a real recipe for disaster.
Add to the equation the austerity measures government is pursuing currently, then the future will definitely look bleak for the country.
Once the country’s total harvest guarantees food security to the nation, government has room to concentrate on other developmental programmes without having to fund food purchases.
In a way, price increases may not be entirely avoidable but they should remain within the fair margin so as not to hamper the prospects of recovery the Zimbabwean economy had all along craved for.