Zimbabwe: High Inputs Costs Threaten 2020 Season

2 December 2019

Many farmers have been hit by the high cost of inputs and an erratic start to the rains.

Although the Government has put in place Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs schemes to help, it wants private agro-industrial companies to move aggressively into contract farming to secure raw materials and complement its programmes.

Besides the inflation in prices of inputs, with farmers being charged by tractor owners the equivalent of US$45 and 30 litres of diesel to plough one hectare, many farmers had reduced yields or no yields last season because of the drought and so do not have funds available for this season.

An outbreak of January Disease (Theileriosis) this year means significant numbers of communal farmers do not have oxen to plough and so need to pay for tillage.

Lands, Agriculture, Water, Culture and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos said the Government has been continuously reviewing producer prices to enable farmers to meet the costs.

"Producer prices offered by Government through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), take into account input costs.

"We always meet regularly with seed, chemical and fertiliser houses to understand their challenges and also provide whatever support that we can to them. We cannot force input suppliers to reduce their prices, but instead we believe dialogue is important in order for them to know the concerns of our farmers, and to also appreciate their individual challenges.

"The Command Agriculture Programme and Presidential Inputs Scheme were more direct ways of supporting our farmers to ensure that they grow this season.

"The farmers are being supported by availing inputs and services at affordable prices, plus low interest rates to loans advanced by financiers of the programme and there is no need for collateral on the part of the farmers. We are also targeting to assist productive farmers, farmers with irrigation and in high potential areas."

Farmers organisations have noted that Command Agriculture has stricter selection criteria.

Several months ago, the Government made it clear that while the programme would remain and be reinforced, abuses had to be rooted out and, in particular, the selling of inputs and side marketing to avoid repaying the inputs loans.

Farmers with a record of using their inputs to produce crops and then repaying the loans would have no problems.

Outlining the farmers problems, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Mr Shadreck Makombe said yesterday: "We are in a quagmire, that is between the hard surface and a rock."

Mr Makombe said though some rains fell in October, farmers face unaffordable prices of inputs.

While he encouraged those who qualified for Command Agriculture inputs to take advantage of the scheme, he was concerned about the stricter selection criteria

Some contractors in the private sector had cut back because of the cost of inputs.

Under contract farming, the contractor pays for the inputs and when the farmer delivers the crop, deducts that cost before paying out the farmer.

Though he appreciated Government efforts to help farmers, Mr Makombe said this should be done on a larger scale.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union executive director Mr Edward Dune said his farmers also faced expensive inputs and poor erratic rains at the beginning of the season.

Mr Dune accused many suppliers of inputs of using a four-tier pricing model: US dollars, bond notes, bond coins and electronic transfers.

This is illegal as well as making life difficult for farmers.

Most of Mr Dune's farmers have to buy from small retailers in their areas rather than in bulk from the manufacturers, who obey the law.

The weather was the other big problem.

Mr Dune appealed to the Government to consider more agriculture development funding to get the country to productivity.

However, Government has said it is doing the best it can to assist farmers in a situation replete with competing national demands.

Deputy Minister Haritatos wanted to see far more support from the private agro-industrial sector to use contract farming to procure their raw materials.

This would see millers, stock feed companies and oil expressers running contract farming schemes to guarantee high production.

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