Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zim faces prospect of failing to feed itself

Zim faces prospect of failing to feed itself

Thursday, 03 November 2011 15:35

Paul Nyakazeya

THE prospect of Zimbabwe once again failing to feed itself  is looming as 
most farmers are now switching from growing staple food to the more 
lucrative cash crops such as tobacco. The migration to cash crops has been 
exacerbated by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s delay in paying farmers for 
the maize crop delivered in the 2010/2011 marketing season. The GMB takes up 
to six months to pay for deliveries.

The Tobacco Industry Marketing Board indicated that registered growers had 
increased by 1 831 to 29 859 this week with significant increases coming 
from communal and A1 farmers. This represents a 7% increase from the 
previous week.

The Commercial Farmers Union immediate past president Deon Theron told the 
Independent this week that while tobacco was expensive to grow, its returns 
were high compared to maize –– a development which had lured farmers to opt 
for the crop.

Against such a background, Thereon said Zimbabwe faced the gloomy prospect 
of failing to feed herself.
“I don’t see Zimbabwe being able to feed itself this year and next year,” 
said Theron. “As a country, we will have to rely on imports again.”

It costs up to US$1 200 to plant a hectare of maize compared to between 
US$$9 500 and US$10 000 to plant the same hectarage of tobacco.
“While tobacco has been rewarding for farmers compared to other crops, some 
farmers said they were disappointed by the low prices which they felt could 
have been higher considering inputs invested,” Theron said.

As of October 15, the GMB reportedly owed farmers some US$40 million for 
maize delivered to its depots in the 2010/11 marketing season.
A total of US$27,4 million has so far been paid to the farmers. Government 
set a producer price of US$285 per metric tonne this year, up from the 
US$275 per metric tonne from last season.

The situation has further been worsened by allegations that some GMB 
officials have agents who move around buying maize from farmers at prices 
ranging between US$150 and US$185 per tonne, and then reselling the grain at 
US$285 per tonne.
This, analysts said, would not help the situation, much as more farmers 
would have no choice but opt for the golden leaf.
Tobacco farmers got cash payments for almost all their deliveries after the 
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe increased the cash payments threshold from US$2 000 
to US$10 000 per sale.

Farmers who delivered less than 4 000kg of the golden leaf in one delivery 
received their payment in cash.The US$10 000 threshold applied for every 
single sale made. Farmers with more than 4 000kg could split their sale into 
two within the same day and still get the US$10 000.
TIMB CEO Andrew Matibiri said more than 20 000 farmers had registered to 
grow tobacco in the coming 2011/12 season.

“The number of farmers who have so far registered to plant tobacco in the 
coming season has doubled what we had in the same period last season, which 
is a clear indication that farmers now appreciate the importance of 
registration and returns by the company,” Matibiri said.

Finance minister Tendai Biti, who has been accused of sabotaging the 
agriculture sector by tightening his purse strings for agriculture, said the 
sector was well funded by government, development partners and private 

Biti said government set aside US$79 040 040 in the 2009 budget, US$300 206 
439for 2009-2010 budget and US$172 730 737 in the 2010-2011 budget.
Biti said government was committed to mobilising and coordinating banks, 
development partners, seed houses and farmers’ unions to ensure that this 
year’s farming season was well oiled.

“Government has in partnership with local input producers so far secured 
agricultural inputs worth US$75 million to be accessed by both A2 and 
vulnerable farmers,” Biti said at a media briefing last week.

Biti, who signed a memorandum of agreement with Agriculture, Mechanisation 
and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made on an input facility scheme 
expected to benefit 100 000 vulnerable families, said government support 
toward agriculture had grown phenomenally.
Made and Biti also signed another memorandum of agreement for US$30 million 
in respect of strategic grain reserves.

“We are happy with the facilities that have been announced,” said Made. 
“Although they might not be enough, they go a long way in signalling 
government support. It signifies that agriculture is very important and that 
farmers are very important,” Made said.

Although national production estimates of the second round crop assessment 
point to a larger maize harvest in 2011, analysts said government was in the 
habit of literally making an over-the-top view when conducting preparedness 
and assessment surveys.
Made once predicted a bumper harvest after a helicopter ride a few years 
ago, only for the season to seriously flop.

An estimated 1,5 million households benefited from input assistance in the 
2010/11 season, accessing inputs at a subsidised rate through government and 
the humanitarian community assistance programmes.
Sorghum and millet production is estimated to be below last year’s level on 
account of a smaller area planted and the winter wheat crop currently being 

Intermittent power interruptions, however, continue to disrupt irrigation 
cycles, and therefore impeding the country‘s productive capacity.
Overall, national cereal output is estimated at 1,7 million tonnes for 2011, 
about 4% higher than last season’s output.
According to the National Early Warning Unit (NEWU), consumption of own 
grain production in August 2011 was below levels compared to the same month 
in 2010 which, in part, reflects a drop in production of both sorghum and 

An urban assessment conducted by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment 
Committee (ZimVAC) indicated a marked improvement in food security over the 
past three years. An estimated 1% of the urban population is categorised as 
exposed to food insecurity in 2011 compared to 24% in 2009.


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