Agriculture reels from economic crisis

HARARE - The agriculture sector has been hit hard by a worsening cash crisis, fuel shortages and price hikes.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) chief executive officer Ben Purcell-Gilpin told the Daily News on Sunday this week that the prevailing economic crisis has dented production.

He said farmers are in a dire situation as suppliers want United States dollars for their products yet their customers earn in local currency.

“For the majority, there is great concern that the general cost increases of inputs including fuel means the viability of production is very tight and they will need price increases.

“At the same time, the market for instance for fresh produce such as potatoes is experiencing consumer resistance and clearly this will impact further plantings,” he said.

Agriculture is the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy, contributing about 17 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), 70 percent of Zimbabweans rely on agriculture for livelihoods.

The prevalence of drought this season due to the El Nino phenomenon means that millions will be food insecure.

Climate experts reported that Zimbabwe and the entire southern African region would experience drought due to another El Nino weather pattern which will precipitate low rainfall this season.

Droughts are also associated with food imports at a time when Zimbabwe is already struggling to acquire foreign currency to import essentials such as wheat, soya beans for cooking oil, drugs and fuel.

The fuel crisis has further constrained the farming season as the sector heavily relies on fuel for production.

“Fuel shortages have resulted in late planting or even no planting because after a certain date, the yield will not give a viable return.

“Some farmers who grow on contract are relying on contractors to source fuel for them, often at higher than pump price.

“It may also mean a change to shorter season crops or varieties with lower yield expectation,” Purcell-Gilpin added.

The majority of farmers are also struggling to get finances or investments for large scale farming without collateral.

Most of the farmers do not have title to the land, acquired through the chaotic land reform programme instigated by former liberation war fighters in early 2000.

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