Imports still needed despite big harvest

via Imports still needed despite big harvest 7  August 2014

ZIMBABWE recorded its biggest cereals harvest in five years, bringing jubilation in government corridors where annual economic growth estimates have been revised upwards.

But experts say the good cereal harvest does not signify a recovery in the agriculture sector, ravaged since the turn of the millennium by a poorly planned land redistribution programme and successive poor rainy seasons.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament on Monday Zimbabwe’s economy would grow 3.1%-6.4% this year, driven by recovery in agriculture.

Estimates differ, with the government putting the gross cereals harvest at 1,680,293 metric tonnes. It says that the country requires 1,427,119 tonnes a year, leaving an excess of 253,174 tonnes.

But the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) estimates the total maize harvest at just 1-million metric tonnes, slightly over half the 1.8-million metric tonnes the nation requires. The CFU is an organisation of large-scale mainly white commercial farmers.

“The country produced just about half what it consumes,” CFU president Charles Taffs said.

He said there is a short-term oversupply of the staple cereal but the country will have to import cereals before the end of the year.

Government estimates have always been suspect because they are often used to justify the land-reform programme which saw the destruction of commercial farming in Zimbabwe when land was forcibly taken away from white farmers and given to black farmers, the majority of whom lacked the skills and the wherewithal to run them commercially.

In 2002 Agriculture Minister Joseph Made flew a helicopter round the country and said there would be a bumper harvest. Instead, the country experienced its worst grain deficit in history.

In 2006 he astonishingly blamed a monkey for the poor harvest, saying the primate had tampered with the supply of electricity to fertiliser manufacturer Sable Chemicals resulting in the undersupply of the essential ammonium nitrate fertilisers.

Turbulence on the farms which began in 2000 is still ongoing. President Robert Mugabe last month urged supporters to grab the few commercial farms still in the hands of white farmers.

The good harvest of cereals this year has been attributed to good rains in the arid southern regions of the country which are generally outside the 37% of the country considered suitable for commercial agriculture.


These regions receive below 600mm of rain annually and are subject to frequent droughts.

Growers in these regions are mainly small-scale and rural subsistence farmers but they were this year responsible for the 30% production surge, said the CFU.

But this is unsustainable because rainfall is erratic and unreliable, making dry-land cultivation a risky venture.

The Agriculture Ministry says the success rate of rain-fed agriculture in these regions has been known to be about one good harvest in every four to five years. The success this year was therefore the exception rather than the norm.

One challenge stands in the way of a turnaround in the agricultural sector. Economists say there cannot be a sustainable agricultural sector without land title.

Nobel laureate and US economist Bruce Myerson, in Harare last week, said land titles to beneficiaries of the redistribution programme would encourage investment in agriculture.

“Now that the leadership has said the land redistribution is over, people should be given title to land to encourage investment. This is economically important,” Mr Myerson said.

New farm owners do not have title deeds and cannot borrow money to finance operations.

Taffs says the agricultural sector has regressed 15 years because of the lack of land title.

“To turn around the whole sector we have to look at the whole value chain,” he said.

“Agriculture should be seen as a business. Farmers should be looking at long-term investment — at the next 20 to 30 years.

“As it is now, land, which happens to be our greatest natural resource, is worthless. It should be put into private hands. Who cares who owns the land?”

He said before the land-reform programme the agriculture sector was crop diverse. Now it has been reduced to maize and tobacco.

The tobacco subsector is thriving only because of alternative funding in the form of contract farming. Other crops are declining.

The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU), made up of mainly black commercial farmers, corroborated this.

Its president, Wonder Chabikwa, said due to inadequate funding wheat growing had been compromised.

“Wheat requires special funding and it is expensive to grow. Farmers need to be funded,” he said.

Taffs said the country will produce only 12,000 tonnes of wheat this year against a national requirement of 400,000 tonnes, meaning the deficit will have to be imported.

Other crops such as cotton have continued to decline because of low international prices.

Land, our greatest natural resource, is worthless. It should be put into private hands.


  • comment-avatar
    The Mind Boggles 7 years ago

    Yawn on and on we go , land in private hands whether black or white is always more productive. Privately owned perhaps somebody may have noticed the famous monkey tampering with the electrical box????

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    Albert Zinwamhanga 7 years ago

    Government shoud ban this masquarading organisation calling itselt CFU. Who are the members of the CFU? True, the members are largely former white farmers now squatting in tiny flats in towns or, as the majority of them are, snivelling in old people’s homes accross the country. CFU members are not on the land, neither are they producing anything. These are miserable disease striken lot languishing idly everywhere and using the CFU to dream about being paid billions of dollars for land they took by force and without paying anyone.

    For CFU to suggest that the country needs to import about 800 000 tons of grain is the hight of lunacy and scorn at the impressive production of our own farmers who surpassed what white farmers used to produce, even without access to finance. Mr. Taff should know that our people kept more than 1.5 million tons for their consumption and can even deliver up to a further 600,000 tons to the GMB if, were it not for sanctions, government could ensure that farmers are paid on delivery.

    The CFU’s sole purpose is to keep a gone dream alive. This year’s seriel production topped nearly 4 million tons and tobacco surpassed the 1999 production by more than 400,000 kgs as the farmers still have about 600,000 kgs some of which they are exporting to Zambaia since the auction floors closed early. The CFU should be banned as an organisation of pretenders since it represents not farmers but renegades of former farmers whose sole purpose is to drum up alarm, despondency and consternation in the country. They campaigned for sanctions and now are fighting all attempts to have them removed or eased. The CFU is a security threat and those at its helm are enermies of the state who belong in jail.

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      Gomogranny 7 years ago

      Albert your racist hatred is eating you….better blame that on sanctions as well sweetie…never mind at least your agricultural sector is doing fantastically! SO much maize? SO much production – you are brilliant well done – clearly master farmers are in action! I wonder why the rest of the country is looking so f****d…..OH yes…..SANCTIONS!!!

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      Umwrong 7 years ago

      You can’t even spell “cereal,” and you want anyone to take you seriously? The CFU represents the most qualified remaining farmers. The ZCFU is the upstart union represent “beneficiaries” of the land reform. Your racism is duly noted, but you do nothing to glorify the land reform programme.

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    Charles Frizell 7 years ago

    LOL Albert, frothing on again?

    I read recently that before the Land Grab agriculture contributed 50% of our export earnings. I bet you don’t want to say how much (how little really) agriculture now contributes?

    I also see 10,000 tons max of wheat – I thought we used to grow about 350,000 tons? I guess this must be due to floods/droughts/sanctions/ Rhodies or something? It can’t possibly be due to the stupidity and greed of Zanoids, could it, Albert?

    But please carry on contributing your myths Albert, they may even earn you someone else’s farm – so you can grow weeds and hold parties with your small house, or just commercial ladies. They are generally not as productive as commercial farmers!

  • comment-avatar

    Albert I shall not publish any epithets that you obviously and richly deserve, but for your sake, not anyone’s else, wake up. You will definitely prove that even you also have a brain and once you start using it, rather than be an appendage of some political propaganda you will be very proud of yourself. I promise you. Just try it.

    • comment-avatar
      Albert Zinwamhanga 7 years ago

      Pati, as far as bugs like you go, a person with brains is one who villifies Mugabe and always cries about how the economy now run by Zimbabweans and not foreigners has been ruined. A clever person is one who self-disrespects and denies his humanity. A person who is educated is one who says Africans need Europeans to prosper, shame on you. I know how clever I am. If only you knew who I am and what I do. I can tell you, for starters, that Zanu pf will rule until 2080 when a new party, a home grown party will take over briefly for 20 years and rule until 2100 and Zanu pf will take over again until the end of time. You see, Pat, there is no hope for you at all. You and your lot are so hopeless that it would be better if you directed your ernergies towards fending for yourselves and families, if you are not gay, that is.

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    Mena Bona 7 years ago

    Albert the idiot. You know nothing. Millions have run away. Health system collapsed, sewage systems collapsed, education collapsed. The country is now like a rotting corpse and the drivel trickles out of your mouth.

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    Mlimo 7 years ago

    Last news I read the GMB had only received 40,000 tons so not sure where the rest has come from ? Albert from the Stone Age.