THERE is enough seed in the warehouses to meet farmers' requirements this season but fertilizer is a challenge and President Mugabe should expand his presidential well-wishers input support programme, outgoing Agriculture and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made has said. Weather experts have predicted normal to above normal rains during the 2013/2014 farming season.
In an interview with The Herald on preparations for this farming season, Minister Made said Government's immediate task was to ensure farmers access inputs on time.
"The immediate task of Government is really to have seed supported. Fortunately, the seed houses have indicated there is enough seed to the extent of 52 000 metric tonnes of seed in the warehouses. Unfortunately because of the activities of the past five years (Inclusive Government era), we owe seed houses money which we have not been able to give them," he said.
Outgoing Finance Minister Tendai Biti was reluctant to support the farmer on grounds Zanu-PF believed were aimed at frustrating Government's land reform programme.
"We owe the fertilizer companies money and the appeal from agriculture would be obviously that payment be made quickly to those two sets of subsectors that provide the primary materials that we use for the agricultural season so that they are able to continue their business operations. That is the important task to make sure that those companies are looked at from that point of view," Minister Made said.
He said both small-scale and A2 farmers needed support from Government to ensure a successful farming season.
"Focus should be given to those areas that have better rains. Every effort should be made so that we do not leave that land lying idle. It must be the effort of the farmer and then intervention that Government can come up with. The primary intervention is fertilizer and seed. Seed is enough, fertilizer no. Fertilizer is a different story," Minister Made said.
He bemoaned the current electricity challenges facing the country saying load shedding was negatively impacting on fertilizer production and the whole agriculture sector.
Minister Made said the fertilizer industry must be given constant electricity supply as failure to do so has a ripple effect on agriculture.
He also spoke about the predicted rainfall patterns.
"When weather patterns say normal to above normal rains, it means that we are likely to have soil leaching. That is the double edge of better rains. It means more rains. It means soil leaching. The reason why I am emphasizing this is because the Ammonium Nitrate and Compound D fertilizer must be manufactured almost simultaneously so that as your crop gets knee height you top dress it immediately before the fertilizer that is in the soil is leached," Minister Made said.
"What is central and critical is that the planning is ready. It is on the table but the bigger challenge is mobilisation of resources but otherwise the farmer is ready. They are preparing. We just hope that now we deal squarely with paying farmers and paying the industry that supports the agriculture sector."
He appealed to President Mugabe to continue his Presidential well-wishers input support programme that single-handedly supported farmers throughout the tenure of the inclusive Government.
"Remember the Presidential well-wishers programme single handedly is what supported our farmers for the past five years. Again our appeal is once more to the President that as per the Zanu-PF manifesto that programme is also continued if not expanded," Minister Made said.