Treat farming as business

via Treat farming as business – DailyNews Live 20 August 2014 by Cathy Buckle

HARARE – Every year, at about this time when temperatures are going up, pods are cracking and new leaves are appearing on the deciduous trees, we start wondering about the winter wheat crop.

How big is it, has it matured yet, is it safe from the sweeping maze of uncontrolled fires and have we grown enough for our daily bread requirements?

This year, none of the answers are good.

Growing our own food has fallen so low on the national priority list that we really must hang our heads in shame.

It’s not that long ago that we were known as the breadbasket of Africa. Despite land being seized from 5 000 white farmers and given to 200 000 black farmers, we have failed dismally.

Apparently, we’ve just grown the same size wheat crop as we produced in 1966.  Nearly half a Century ago, in 1966, Zimbabwe produced 10 tonnes of wheat. That amount increased fairly steadily to peak at 325 000 tonnes in 2001.

According to the latest edition of The Africa Report only 6 000 hectares of land were planted to wheat this winter. It’s a generous estimate as local statistics put the planting closer to 3 000 hectares but either way it’s a far, far cry from the 65 000 hectares we used to plant just 13 years ago.

From this year’s hectarage planted to wheat, farmers are expecting a yield of 10 000 tonnes, the lowest in 48 years; in fact the lowest the country has ever recorded.

Millers say we currently consume more than a million loaves of bread a day. It’s not a lot considering our population of 14 million people but millers still need 25 000 tonnes of wheat every month to meet national demand.

If predictions for the 2014 harvest being only 10 000 tonnes are accurate then we’ve grown enough wheat for just over a week. The rest will all have to be imported.

Experts say that Zimbabwe will have to import around 440 000 tonnes of wheat in order to cover the shortfall and satisfy our requirements between the 2014 and 2015 harvests.

With wheat costing $500 a tonne to import, our agricultural failings in respect to wheat alone are going to cost the government $220 million.

There is a veritable mountain of excuses about our farmers’ inability or unwillingness to produce enough wheat to meet the country’s needs including erratic electricity supplies; inability to irrigate, low producer prices and high input costs.

The tragedy about the dismal failure of this year’s winter wheat crop is that we knew it was coming, the experts were ringing alarms bells well in advance but no one was listening.

One of the warnings not on the list of excuses came in a June press report.

The chairperson of the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe, Tafadzwa Musarara, explained one problem which receives very little attention.

Ironically, it is free inputs given out because it is politically expedient; guaranteeing votes in the ballot box but not bread on the table.

Musarara said: “Where a farmer wilfully and intentionally diverts inputs worth $30 000, he is only liable to a fine of  $100 or a prison sentence for a period not more than three months, but one will be imprisoned for nine years for stealing the same farmer’s beast worth $300.”

Just as free farms haven’t produced food, neither have free inputs.

Farming is a business and until it is treated as such we will have to keep importing food.

How much longer will it be before agriculture and production are put back at the top of the national priority list?

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 9
  • comment-avatar

    Cathy Buckle first of all thanks for your commitment in giving us this regular insight on the farming side of things and life in General. It always makes a good read. Cathy at this stage we are all weary. This has gone on so long that it seems there is no end. Guess what, there is an end. The current events are signs of the end game being at hand. The only problem is will those that try to rebuild have the strength and will power to rebuild? Obama recently said “It is easier to destroy that to build” Barrack Obama was right. He also once said ” We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence. This must be relevant to us as well.

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    Bambazonke 7 years ago

    So what is farming in the eyes of the PF a business , to them it’s a form of political cleansing and nothing to do with RIGHTS go rot in hell ,we will win

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    Mlimo 7 years ago

    Can’t smoke wheat or sell it at good profits.

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    For ZANU-PF its not about filling those silos and being self sufficient as a country, it is about those ballots. As long as those given land continue to show their gratitude by placing an X in the right place anything else isn’t important. ZANU-PF have learnt that dangling land like a carrot ensures them an endless supply of X’s. If you stop being ‘grateful and singing praises or fall out of favour’ there are plenty potential people out there to take your so called farm and sing for their supper.Thats why the land changes hands like panties.

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      Tinomunamataishe 7 years ago

      You are right Lucy, they use land for votes. The problem is once they get the power they abuse it and have zero interest in the country itself including those who might have voted for them.
      They are now dragging the country into the stone age and poverty is one of the tools they use to cling to power. As long as people are poor and dependent on them they will continue to rule them – that’s their plan.

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    Tinomunamataishe 7 years ago

    Farming as a business? Forget it. Those farms are prestige trophies and whilst Cathy shows in this article that she cares so much, the same cannot be said of the Zanu PF thugs who don’t care about the country at all as long they themselves live in utter luxury whilst surrounded by abject poverty, death and hunger.

    If common sense was to be applied, those farms should be given to anyone who is able to farm and can produce food for the nation. This will in turn create jobs, taxes etc.

    This is 2014 and farms should not be toy things, they need to be run as a business with proper business plans and not just a punch in the dark like what’s happening now.

    Zimbabwe is in such a fortunate position whereby farmers can make a profit from the farming whereas in some parts of the world farmers can only break even after government subsidies.
    The problem is that there is total lack of visionary leadership in the country and the leadership is so racist everything is viewed in black and white terms.

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    Justice 7 years ago

    Just another small contribution to the endless list of the utter incompetence and destruction of Mugarbage and his gang of thieves. May they rot in hell.

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    JOHNSON 7 years ago

    WITH THIS EVIL GOING ON YOU CANT TAKE FARMING AS SERIOUS BUSINESS BECOZ THE GOONS CAN JUST COME AND TAKE YOUR FARM AFTER YOU DEVELOP IT ACCUSING YOU OF BELONGING TO THIS AND THAT POLITICAL ORGANIZATION. OR IF YOU ARE A FOREIGNER, OF BELONGING TO THIS OR THAT COUNTRY.

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    JOHNSON 7 years ago

    REMINDS ME OF RUDOLF HESS AND HITLER’S SCHUTZSTAFFELN OR WAFFEN SS AND THE JEWS, US ZIMBOS BEING THE VICTIM OF THE NAZIS