'Imports not solving food crisis'

HARARE - Zimbabwe's food security is under threat following poor rains and incessant food imports characterising the country.

Stakeholders in the agriculture sector are pessimistic and predict the situation will worsen if government fails to address issues of relief.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Donald Khumalo said the country was facing the risk of acute food shortages if there is continuous reliance on maize imports.

“The nation is already vulnerable in terms of food security. We are dependant on maize imports from neighbouring Malawi and Zambia.

“This is proving to be costly on the nation’s budget and it belittles our sovereignty as a nation once dubbed the ‘bread basket of Africa’. We need to put together our resources and be able to produce for ourselves.”

Khumalo urged government to liaise with non-governmental organisations to complement available resources with technologically advanced equipment.

“The government should harness agricultural resources for the eradication of hunger and poverty. Where possible they should liaise with NGOs, because they have infrastructure and technology that our farmers need.

“Farmers are indebted with costs, payments after sale of produce are not timeous and most of them have down-sized their hecterage from 50 to five hectares because producing more has proven to be a financial risk.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union vice president Berean Mukwende said government should prioritise its mandate to feed the nation.

“Resources that we get from tax, revenue and commodities such as diamonds should be channelled towards food production for farmers not to neglect production,” Mukwende said, adding that: “Zimbabwe boasts of some of the best soils in the region but surprisingly the agro-industry has been crippled by unemployment caused by the increased imports.”

In his 2014 national budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said agricultural projections this year plummeted to 1,3 percent from an initial 6,4 projection.

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced that at least 1,6 million people would need food aid around the country this year following a poor agricultural season.

The United Nations agency said it would need about $119 million for an aid programme which would run until the next harvest in March next year.

Food shortages are being blamed on erratic rainfall and dry spells, limited access to seeds and fertilisers, a reduction in the planted area, poor farming practices and inadequate crop diversification.

However, Harare-based agronomist Takunda Mugaga says production of cash crops is necessary for upgrading the nation’s balance of payment.

“If farmers can produce more to export, I guarantees the improvement of the economy and business minded farmers will always look at the international price of a commodity first before considering production.

“Circumstances of the farmer determine the type of crops that they grow because one cannot expect a farmer in dry regions four and five to produce maize or flowers, it would be more profitable if that farmer engages in small grain production that is conducive to those climates,” he said.

Comments (1)

I have just spent 6 months in your wonderful country and I am appalled at the excuses being made for the lack of food production. It doesn't take an expert to see that sensible agricultural management is all but non existent. The indigenous farmers who were gifted some of the best land available have no expertise in how to use it to produce viable crops. Subsistence farming, which is all I saw, is not going to rescue Zimbabwe from the desperate situation you find yourselves in. The food bowl of the world is drowning in corruption and the infrastructure needed to improve the situation is in such bad shape I can't see an improvement in the foreseeable future. Many changes have to be made before things get better.

Brian Wright - 30 December 2013

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