FARMERS are now looking at the weather patterns in anticipation of the first rains that normally fall in October, but the late announcement of agricultural funding and input support schemes may be a clear sign that the food security situation that requires a successful 2012/2013 season is at stake.
Farmers in communal areas usually look at different signs to predict the success of a new season.
And they have predicted that the abundance of snot apples known in Shona as matohwe and other wild fruits is a clear sign that the 2012/2013 season will most likely be blessed with good rainfall.
The Meteorological Service Department has already predicted a normal to above normal rainfall season for Region 1 and Region 2, which cover much of the country.
Region 3, which comprises of Masvingo, Matabeleland South and the southern parts of Midlands, will however receive normal to below normal rainfall, according to the forecast.
Farmers in these areas should therefore expect another drought year.
The country's food security situation is currently compromised and another failed season will only worsen the situation especially in Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces.
Fears of severe food shortages in 2013 abounds as the critical funding bottlenecks worsen among the cash-strapped small-scale farmers who are failing to buy fertiliser.
Fertiliser prices have ranged between US$36 and US$38 for a 50-kilogramme bag.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice-president Berean Mukwende called for policy direction to guide farmers in terms of hectarage to be planted and the major crops that they should plant in 2013.
"Maize farmers are disgruntled that they can no longer afford to continue producing maize at a loss while Zimbabwe will be importing at over US$400 per tonne," Mukwende told the Farming Gazette.
Although tobacco growers have started planting the irrigated crop, the whole agriculture sector is underfunded and farmers are unable to borrow money from financial institutions.
"There are huge problems when it comes to financing. We have heard the Finance Minister Tendai Biti talking of US$150 million for this season but as farmers we know its rhetoric, every year it is just talk and the funds are not released on time or they are never made available," he said.
The 2012/2013 season will further reflect the collapse in the country's agriculture industry as government fails to plan for the season on time.
"Like last season there is no support for agriculture that has been made available and even if they are to mobilise inputs, fertiliser companies are yet to be paid money owed from the previous season, already in terms of preparations we are behind," Mukwende added.
Despite an improved economic environment since 2009, the agricultural sector has failed to recover and continues to underperform.
Although the country's cereal harvest was poor due to a combination of factors, namely: adverse weather conditions, constrained access to agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, and deteriorating farming infrastructure resulting in reduced yields and overall production, these challenges have become perennial with no immediate solution.
To revive the sector in terms of production and ensure food security and stop food imports, the agricultural industry needs a direct injection of US$1,2 billion and a further US$2 billion for infrastructure.
The national cereal harvest declined by 33 percent this year and if the cropping season begins with the same problems then the 2013 harvest is expected to further deteriorate.
"The new season is a mess, there is no funding in place and fertiliser companies have stopped manufacturing fertiliser because of the money they are owed which is in excess of US$40 million. There is need for dialogue with government and farmers' leaders to come up with a lasting solution to problems being faced by farmers," Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Charles Taffs said.
The country needs to move forward in a progressive manner and the CFU has called on all stakeholders involved in agriculture to join hands in rebuilding the sector because without lasting solutions the industry is quietly dying and worsening the country's recurring food security situation.
"As CFU we want to participate in the recovery of not only agriculture but of Zimbabwe and we want to be viewed in a non-confrontational manner since we are all working for the same goal," Taffs said.
Another poor and unplanned agricultural season will mean government, would once again be forced to import grain on a global market with stiff competition to access food/grain since recent reports indicate that the United States of America has been seriously affected by drought and, as a result, maize and wheat harvests are expected to be very poor.
Being the main producer of maize and wheat in the world, the expected poor harvests have already led to increased world prices of these and other food commodities.
As the 2013 season begins, again it is expected to be yet another year of largely short-term financing at punitive interest rates, with a negative impact not only on agriculture but also on the overall economic growth prospects.
The absence of a land market will continue to prevent financial institutions from granting loans to all farmers because there is little or no collateral to support the loans, while the high and uncompetitive cost of production will have a negative a negative impact on the growth of agriculture in 2013.