We want to commend the Government and Zanu-PF for committing themselves to providing farmers with support to boost production.
On Wednesday, Zanu-PF through its Secretary for Lands, Land Reform and Rural Resettlement Cde Ignatious Chombo, said it would soon carry out an audit of all farms to establish the challenges that farmers are facing and recommend the solutions.
And yesterday we carried another report quoting Cde Chombo on the need for Government to subsidise farmers in order to promote production. We believe farmers need support in various forms to help them use the land productively.
We find it very refreshing that Zanu-PF has acknowledged that the solution to tackling production problems on the farms does not only lie in dispossessing non-performers off the land, but on ascertaining the challenges they face and proffering solutions.
Indeed, it makes little sense accusing farmers of not productively using the land without establishing the reasons that inhibit them from producing.
It is encouraging that Government has realised the importance subsidies play in agricultural production and that it is contemplating going the same route as obtains elsewhere in the world.
Government can provide subsidies in the form of inputs such as fertilisers, seed and chemicals that are accessed by farmers at reasonable prices. What we remain interested in as a country is production and once we achieve that, then we set ourselves on the path towards food self-sufficiency and consequently national food security.
Subsidies can be introduced on important crops like maize, cotton, tobacco and soya beans. Right now there has been problems in the cotton sector with ginners and growers fighting over seed cotton prices.
At one stage this resulted in an impasse between the two parties with farmers withholding the crop and ginners saying it was uneconomic to pay prices that were not market-related.
We believe subsidies provide the solution to the challenges that have been encountered in the cotton sector in particular and other sectors in general.
Cde Chombo rightly put it when he said seed cotton prices were low because local farmers were competing with subsidised products on the international market.
Elsewhere in the world, subsidies have played a crucial role in boosting production and made countries net exporters of agricultural commodities instead of being net importers.
Government policies in China, for example, support cotton production. China maintains significant strategic reserves of cotton and in 2011/12 season, it implemented a minimum cotton support price to benefit growers. The same applies in India, where again, a minimum support price programme is in effect.
Because of the high market prices that obtained in India in both the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, the minimum support price was not paid to producers.
In West Africa, several countries provided subsidies for cotton inputs in 2011/12 season, especially for fertiliser and planting seeds. So the issue of subsidies should not be viewed as something that is practically impossible as there are countries in the world that provide good case studies of how to promote agricultural production through subsidies.
It is our hope that the pronouncement on subsidies should just not remain as such, but should be implemented. We have cotton farmers who feel they have been shortchanged by ginners and feel that the price they are being paid averaging 30 US cents per kg is a rip off.
Farmers are convinced that ginners make a lot of money exporting the lint and that they should also be paid high prices to reflect lint prices obtaining on the market.
It is our hope that Government will move with speed to support farmers so as to improve agricultural production and enhance food production.