Farmers are under-utilising the land due to shortage of inputs and working capital and this development confirmed that the country faces another poor agricultural season, the Commercial Farmers Union President, Charles Taffs said today.
In an interview with The Zimbabwean, Taffs said there is need for the government to go back to the drawing board and invest in long term planning strategies that ensured that farmers have enough capital for their agricultural activities way before the farming season starts.
Taffs said: “There is need for active and increased bank involvement in providing capital for both small scale and commercial farmers before the beginning of every farming season.
“As a country, we should stop relying on donor support for funding towards agricultural activities. Giving farmers agricultural inputs in November and December is too late for them to realise good yields,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union reported that the country required 2, 2 metric tonnes of maize if the country is to meet its food demand and prevent food deficit.
Currently, of the 1,700 hectares that was expected to be planted, only half of it had been utilised, signaling that the country would not meet the targeted food output.
Said Taffs: “Increased crop output is not only dependant on good rainfall but on the availability of inputs and proper and timely utilisation of them.
“Currently, there is under utilisation of the available land and there is need to address this and ensure that as a country, farmers are capacitated to increase crop output,” he said.
Taffs urged government to recapacitate the irrigation facilities in the country if Zimbabwe is to retain the country’s bread basket status.
“The rains were a bit late but they are widespread with expectations that most parts of the country are for the first time in many years going to experience good rains,” said Taffs.
“The challenge is that there is not enough mobilisation of available resources towards funding agricultural activities. Government should resuscitate and expand the available 100, 000 hectare irrigation facilities so that farmers can grow their crops all year round,” he said.
During the last farming season, Zimbabwe experienced a serious maize deficit after harvesting 750 000 metric tonnes, a development which forced the government to import 150 000 metric tonnes of grain from neighbouring Zambia.
Agriculture deputy ministers, Paddy Zhanda and David Murapira told farmers in Bulawayo last month that next year, government would suspend the importation of grain to support local production.
According to the government, the move is aimed at reducing the country's ballooning import bill recorded at $3, 9 billion as of August, 2013.