Prices of agricultural inputs soar out of reach

HARARE - Prices of farming inputs such as seed and fertilisers have increased to levels that not many people can afford.

A recent survey by the Daily News showed that a 10kg bag of maize seed that used to cost between $28 and $32, is now going for between $80 and $102,90.

A 25kg bag of maize seed is fetching up to $290.92.

A 50kg bag of Compound D fertiliser is pegged at about $222 or US$37, while top dressing fertiliser was nowhere to be found.

The price increases are piling misery on the farmer by increasing the cost of production.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Ben Purcell Gilpin told the Daily News that there has been a sharp increase in the prices of many inputs.

“Those farmers who have not already bought seed, fertilisers and crop chemicals will be facing real challenges because of sharp increases and the worry is they may not get paid enough at harvest to cover their input costs.

“For many, the prices will result in reduced hectarage when planting,” he said.

While the majority retailers of farming inputs are accepting bond notes and payments through the Real Gross Settlement System (RTGS) platform, the prices are pegged against the United States dollar to preserve value — making them more of moving targets.

Farmers have lamented the price escalations, saying buying inputs from the Grain Marketing Board is now the only viable alternative, considering that the State granary reasonably prices its products.

In the case of farming equipment and spare parts, retailers are demanding payment in US dollars.

The fact that pharmacies and hardware stores are demanding payment in greenbacks has also affected cattle farmers who are losing cattle due to tick-borne diseases, amidst drug shortages.

Agricultural economist Peter Gambara said the current prices will brew more trouble for farmers thus causing them to abandon farming this year.

“At these prevailing prices, it now costs $4 520 to grow a hectare of maize and the breakeven price will be $904 per tonne.

“GMB producer price will have to be $1 175 bond notes per tonne, otherwise farmers will not go back to farm this year,” Gambara said.

CFU CEO Paul Zacharia told the Daily News that government needs to fix the economy to achieve stability and avoid shortage of grains.

“Sanity has to prevail! This situation must be arrested before real disaster strikes and agriculture has been suffering for a long time.

“It’s also time for government, private sector and consumers to sit down and agree on a proper way forward because the soaring inputs prices will push many farmers out of production, and at this rate, many will downsize and try to just survive, and it is not good for the country,” Zacharia said.

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