4 January 2014

Zimbabwe: No Need to Import Maize

Photo: Mauricio Ramos/IPS


What has made zanu-PF a formidable political party is its undoubted ability to work for the people, stand by them and with them in good and bad times. Its policies resonate with the generality of the people.

This is why a Zanu-PF-led Government has always been the first choice for Zimbabweans. It is a Government that understands the needs and wants of the people and strives hard to live up to their expectations and indeed, for the Government, failure is not an option.

When indicators of food shortages started showing, Government sprung to action fast and set in motion a programme to import grain from neighbouring countries, something any administration with the interests of the people at heart should do.

When it became apparent that our agriculture would not perform to the expected production levels owing to erratic rainfall pattern in some parts of the country and possible famine in others, Government immediately made provision to import 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia to avert starvation.

While maize imports from Zambia are trickling into the country, Government's commitment to guaranteeing national food security has seen it importing an additional 150 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa and these imports should go some-way towards alleviating food shortages until the next harvest in April.

It is important to note that it was always a hassle getting money released for the national cause during the subsistence of the inclusive Government when MDC-T controlled the national purse. This was so because there were people in Government who did not understand that political parties drew their power from the people and that the people are the common denominator in the rise and fall of governments.

While we appreciate the speed with which Government moves when it comes to dealing with matters of national food security, we remain convinced there is no need to import maize, especially for a country that empowered its people not only with the land, but with the tools to work on the land -- machinery and implements.

Nearly 300 000 families were resettled under land reform on arable land that was previously occupied by less than 4 000 white farmers.

Just taking into account that statistic, we conclude that barring severe drought, there is no reason whatsoever we should be importing maize when we were once renowned as net exporters of grain.

Apart from the drought that has hit some parts of the country, the other major problem that has faced our agriculture is funding, with farmers struggling to get loans from banks.

As a result farmers have faced insurmountable challenges to buy inputs given their prohibitive costs.

The almost US$800 million that banks said they had set aside for farmers has been difficult to access because of the stringent collateral security requirements.

Agriculture, and particularly food security, has been identified in Zim-Asset as among the key pillars for turning around the economy.

That economic explosion can only be achieved if money is put into agriculture without stringent conditions.

We are of the view that Government should take full responsibility for ensuring agriculture does not catch a cold by funding farmers between now and 2018, otherwise in the absence of direct Government involvement this critical sector will continue sneezing.

It would do Government a lot of good to come up with another national inputs scheme, modelled along the one introduced around 2002 and administered through the Grain Marketing Board in which farmers would access inputs and repay them via a stop order system.

We have no doubt in our minds that our farmers can easily produce enough maize for consumption and export if they are given inputs in time.

There is nothing wrong in demanding that all beneficiaries of land reform should grow at least two hectares of maize, in addition to other cash crops and this way we would be able to achieve food self-sufficiency.

It is a fact that irrigation is very key to crop production and it would certainly do Government no harm to rehabilitate all irrigation infrastructure across the country for long term national benefit.

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