The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Agricultural Revival Needs $U.S.2 Billion Annually

OVER US$2 billion is required annually to revive the agriculture sector, which Treasury is reluctant to bankroll. According to the Zanu-PF Central Committee report tabled at the just-ended 13th Annual National People's Conference in Gweru, inadequate funding was crippling efforts to revive the sector.

"The agriculture sector is suffering from inadequate funding and the department is suggesting that a solution to revive the sector should be centred on unlocking financial resources," reads the report, compiled by Zanu-PF's Department of Land Reform, Resettlement and Agriculture.

"The sector needs more than US$2 billion per year to operate optimally and bring back the lost glory."

The department noted that farmers were failing to access loans from banks as they did not have collateral security.

"In some cases, farmers borrow money, but fail to pay back the loans in time due to droughts but the banks need their money back. Farmers would need sustainable financial support from the banks without stringent conditions," the department noted.

It encouraged Government to play a key role in facilitating funding for farmers like what used to happen during the colonial period when commercial farmers were bankrolled by the State.

The department bemoaned the prohibitive cost of farming inputs.

"Most farmers are struggling to put their land to full productive use because of prohibitive costs of inputs such as seed, chemicals, fuel and tillage. Agriculture production costs are generally high in our country due to high costs of fertiliser, chemicals, labour, fuel and water.

"This is also combined with the high cost of funds on the market. Again these have a negative effect on the overall operations of farming. This has resulted in most farmers failing to make a profit or break even, thus rendering farming a useless business venture."

The department urged Government to come up with good pricing for agricultural inputs to encourage farmers to buy hybrid seed that yields more. The department said the distribution of inputs for the 2011-2012 farming season was not done properly.

"It left a lot of people grumbling after they failed to access the inputs. It was sad to note that some of our leaders were involved in the looting of the inputs at the expense of our ordinary people who do not even have the capacity to purchase the expensive inputs on the market.

"The department wishes to see transparency in the distribution of the inputs with the involvement of party structures."

The department said the late distribution of inputs, which had become a tendency, contributed to poor and low yields.

It, however, noted that the land reform exercise embarked on by Zanu-PF to address historical land ownership imbalances had brought a lot of economic benefit to Zimbabweans.

"Our people now own land and are committed to optimum production and productivity. The party and Government need to continue supporting interventions for us to realise maximum production and productivity from the land," the department said.

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