Farmers struggle to meet maize target

via Farmers struggle to meet maize target – DailyNews Live 7 February 2015

HARARE – Zimbabwe could struggle to meet a target of 1,4 million tonnes of maize for the 2014/15 season.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Commercial Union (ZFCU) president Wonder Chabikwa said changes in rainfall patterns compounded with flooding in some areas will negatively impact on the success of the current farming season.

“Last year was a much better season for farmers. This farming season, the rains started late and when they came they were too much, damaging farmers’ crops,” Chabikwa said.

“All this does not augur well for a successful farming season.

“It gives us doubts as farmers if we will achieve our targets.”

He, however, said all hope was not lost as the changing weather patterns could also work in the farmers’ favour.

“It really depends on what happens onwards. If the rains continue and allow the current maize crop to mature then we might be able to recover from a not-so-good looking season,” the ZFCU president said.

He said farmers who had already lost their crop to the current floods will struggle to survive until the next farming season.

“If a farmer is affected by floods, it’s a loss because most of them do not have insurance which could have compensated them for the losses incurred,” he said.

“It’s an area that has to be looked into as to how to deal with such a situation. Flooding is a natural disaster and not of one’s own doing.”

“Funding is a major challenge for most farmers as they resort to self-funding, a situation that puts a strain on their activities, with contract farming remaining the only alternative,” Chabikwa said.

“Traditionally, banks provided funding but at the moment they cannot offer us the loans we require.

“It’s either they totally don’t have the funds to lend or the interest rates plus the span of the loan is unattractive to the farmers,” Chabikwa said.

He said banks were aware of challenges being faced by the sector but were faced with their own problems.

“It’s not that they don’t want to give us money but these are also businesses faced with their problems.

“We do meet them at various forums and we do discuss our problems, while they also air their own problems,” the ZCFU boss said.

With a $2,5 billion funding requirement, government has struggled to mobilise the required funding with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa saying  government was mobilising $252,3 million for the current  agricultural season.

This comes as government  only allocated $155 million to the Agriculture ministry in the 2014 national budget far below expectations.