Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe needs US$270m for maize imports

Zimbabwe needs US$270m for maize imports

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 20:34

Paul Nyakazeya

ZIMBABWE will need about US$270 million to import one million tonnes of 
maize this year, given a projected shortfall in local output of the staple 
crop, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said this week.

CFU president Deon Theron told businessdigest that a total 800 000 tonnes of maize was now expected to be harvested locally, from an initial estimate of 
1,2 million tonnes.

“The initial projection was revised to about 800 000 due to the mid farming 
season drought experienced in some parts of the season,” he said.

Theron said the national maize consumption requirement stood at 1,8 million 
tonnes per annum. Last year Zimbabwe produced 1,3 million tonnes of maize.
“If Zimbabwe is to import (maize) from Malawi it will cost about US$280 per 
tonne,” Theron said.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made, however, said figures of how much maize 
was expected this year were not readily available from government.

He said the country’s national requirement was 2,2 million tonnes and not 
1,8 million tonnes as the CFU stated.

Made said: “There have been projections of maize production in the country, 
mostly by organisations that are not based in Zimbabwe. Most of them do not 
portray the correct situation on the ground. They will be wrong.”

Made accused organisations such as USAid-funded Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) as not being transparent and sincere when dealing with Zimbabwe, saying government had now resorted to ignoring their projections.

Some agriculture experts, however, said Fewsnet’s projections were “almost 
close to the ground and accurate, ” as they deployed experts in all 
provinces to record the correct situation on the ground.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Paul Zakanya said the national yield is 
expected to double.

“We have received really good rains and this season should see us getting a 
good national yield. The bumper harvest will also be driven by the increase 
in the hectarage planted around the country. We are likely to double our 
crop yields this year,” he said.

He however said the cost of inputs could hinder the projected yields. 
Theron also forecast a deficit in the production of wheat, Zimbabwe’s second 
staple grain. He said farmers had failed to meet annual wheat consumption 
requirements of around 450 000 tonnes. Zimbabwe needed to import wheat worth over US$150 million to meet an expected shortfall of 440 000 tonnes.
At least 60 000 hectares was supposed to be put under wheat this year but 
farmers had planted only 10 000 hectares. Once regarded as the breadbasket of Southern Africa during the first two decades after Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has for the past decade become a perennial importer of food, relying more on handouts from aid agencies after farm invasions which started in February 2000.

The agriculture sector, however appears to be emerging from the intensive 
care unit after a decade characterised by political unrest, drought, 
shortage of inputs and fuel, a declining economy, unreliable electricity for 
winter farming and absence of collateral for farmers to access loans.

Some analysts, however, say the sector’s full recovery remains fragile and 
will depend on political and economic stability, reliable electricity, 
availability of inputs, cheap loans for farmers and favourable rains.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union president Silas Hungwe told businessdigest that 
agriculture production had improved a lot in Zimbabwe.

He said: “It was important for farmers to build on last year’s encouraging 
output as all major sectors of the economy’s revival largely depend on 
agriculture. Compared to previous years the amount of hectarage planted is 
encouraging. However, there is no support for the small grains, but 
government is making subsidised fertiliser available to farmers.”

Hungwe said agriculture was the centre of gravity for the economy, 
contributing 19% to gross domestic product last year.

GDP is the most important measure of economic activity in the country as it 
is the crossing point of expenditure, output and income.

This year’s growth is expected to be driven by tobacco, which is expected to 
reach 177 million kg from 123 million kg.

Agricultural Marketing Authority director Basil Nyabadza said Zimbabwe 
needed a comprehensive and sustainable solution that would ensure 
agricultural production was re-invigorated sustainability.

“New farmers should be able to apply to the land bank for soft loans to 
finance purchase of farms and loans to begin or continue agricultural 
production on an agreed cost recovery scheme with the financier,” he said.
“We experienced good rain this year which should translate into a bumper 
harvest. We are looking at a possible increase in tobacco which will be good 
for the economy. The agriculture sector has recovered considerably,” 
Nyabadza said.

However, he said, fertiliser and inputs had not been readily available.


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