Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Farmers decry lack of inputs, equipment losses

JOHANNESBURG, 18 December (IRIN)

  • The ongoing lack of agricultural inputs and a new law that allows the government to "compulsorily acquire" farm equipment have been slammed by Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union (CFU).
    According to the newly gazetted Statutory Instrument, the government can identify, value and "compulsorily acquire" any farm equipment or material, not currently being used for agricultural purposes, on any agricultural land.

The CFU hit out at the new regulation, and the lack of agricultural inputs available for the planting season this year. The union said the government should have liberalised the importation of agricultural inputs before the season began, instead of debating the issue in parliament in mid-December.

The official Herald newspaper reported on Thursday that the parliamentary committee on agriculture had suggested the private sector be allowed to import maize seed and fertiliser as a matter of urgency to help ease the shortage of inputs.

It quoted portfolio committee chairman Daniel Ncube as saying that the shortage of inputs would impact on crop production.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) had warned earlier this year that a shortage of inputs, and inflation - currently over 600 percent - were hurting the prospect of agricultural recovery in Zimbabwe. Aid agencies say over six million people will need food aid in the first few months of 2004.

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE?

The CFU's George Hutchison told IRIN on Thursday that, should the government allow private sector imports of inputs, it would still be too late for the current agricultural season.

"By the time the imported [seed] arrives it will be already too late. However, it may be of some use to [allow private sector] imports of nitrogen top-dressing and various chemicals. But for seed, in my opinion, it is too late - by the time the seed gets here it will be January at the earliest, so they've missed the boat for this planting season," Hutchison noted.

He added that Zimbabwe could expect a harvest of between 800,000 mt to 900,000 mt this season, at best - still short of the more than 1.5 million mt national consumption requirement.

Meanwhile, the CFU was seeking legal advice on the new regulation allowing state acquisition of farmers' equipment.

Any equipment compulsorily acquired will be valued by any public service official the Ministry of Agriculture deems is qualified to do so.

"An acquisition order will be accompanied by a notice in writing, inviting the owner or holder to indicate within 14 days whether he or she is contesting the order. When an acquisition order is served, ownership of the equipment or material passes to the acquiring authority, who then has the power to take immediate possession of the equipment or material," the new regulation states.

Adding that "payment or compensation for the equipment will be at least 25 percent within 30 days, with the balance paid over five years (for equipment) and one year (for materials)".

A CFU statement said the government had effectively "placed yet another hurdle in front of commercial farmers who have lost their farms and now face losing whatever equipment they might have salvaged from the land reform programme".

The union noted that "many of our members, who have been evicted from their farms in the past three years, have been storing their equipment in the hope that they will be able to return to the land in the future". However, it was now apparent "that they will lose out on this last vestige of hope".

The new regulation would further erode any capital savings the farmers were hoping to maintain, and "in the current hyperinflationary times the country is experiencing, being compensated over five years for their equipment will leave many farmers destitute".

CFU President Doug Taylor-Freeme said it was "yet another way for government to dispossess farmers under the guise of providing farm equipment for new [resettled] farmers".

He took issue with the equipment valuation and compensation system, calling it "meaningless".

"Farmers are still waiting for realistic compensation to be paid for the fixed assets on their farms, and now the same is likely to happen for their movable assets and inputs," he said.

[ENDS]

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