18 March 2017
HARARE – The treatment of tobacco farmers in the past few days by buyers
has brought to the fore issues of how farmers across the country are
treated as second-class citizens.
Tobacco farmers are complaining that the new the electronic auction system
is not working and they are not happy with the low prices obtaining at the
sales floors as well as the limited cash withdrawal limits of $1 000 among
It is an insult for tobacco farmers to get $0,20 per kilogramme after
toiling for nearly six months to get the crop ready, let alone be refused
to get all their money from the banks.
The same can also be said about maize farmers who, for years now, have
been battling to receive payment for their crop from the Grain Marketing
Agriculture has been the bedrock of Zimbabwe’s economy even before
independence but the story has changed. Today, the government can no
longer reassure farmers that they can eke a living and provide towards the
bulk of the country’s sustenance.
More so, laws that once supported the country’s mainstay are so
discriminatory it’s a miracle farmers still make a living out of
Theoretically, the government has an elaborate food policy but it has yet
to activate it. For years on end, it has dragged its feet over what,
admittedly, are difficult political and economic decisions – to admit that
land reform has failed.
As it is, Zimbabwe is barely food self-sufficient and there is need for
President Robert Mugabe’s government to give particular attention to
agriculture if the country entertains any hope of economic recovery.
The goal, then, must be to transform today’s subsistence agriculture into
Agricultural production, transformation, and related activities like
branding, marketing and logistics could become alternative drivers of
value addition and the creation of decent jobs.
While tariffs and distortionary subsidies in developed countries have long
discouraged investment and value addition in agriculture in Africa, the
playing field has significantly changed.
Trade reforms and booming South-South and regional trade opportunities
have opened new avenues. There is no intrinsic reason Zimbabwe should be
importing, rather than exporting, basic staples like maize or higher value
products like frozen chicken, cooking oil, or instant noodles.
But for agro-based industries to “jump-start economic transformation”,
challenges must be overcome at every step of the value chain.
Farmers will need much better access to finance, electricity, technology,
and irrigation. Agro-industry will need to expand both downstream, which
is to say in processing, and in upstream input-related activities.