farming in zimbabwe.jpgThis week government unveiled a US$45 million inputs scheme for the 2011 to 2012 summer cropping season, a move which was met by mixed reactions from farmers.

With most farmers saying the money is not adequate, Finance Minister Mr. Tendai Biti’s commitment to funding agriculture has been questioned.

According to experts, this season’s summer cropping season will be coming as early as October.

Over the past few years when the cropping season would start in November or December, the usual problem used to be late disbursement of inputs.

Since independence, government has played a critical role in helping farmers with funds.

However, since Mr. Biti became Finance Minister, the agricultural sector has not been well funded.

Last year, farmers once again felt the full brunt of Mr. Biti’s policies and most of them were bailed out by the Presidential Input Well Wishers Scheme.

This year, treasury has allocated US$45 million for the season under review. However, farmers say the facility is not enough for farming requirements countrywide.

This has raised questions on the sincerity of the Finance Ministry in catering for the backbone of the economy which is agriculture.

Besides the money being inadequate, farmers even doubt whether it will be made available on time.

Former Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr. Thomas Nherera said considering the weather experts indications of an early summer season, it is high time Mr. Biti stops playing political games with the facility and release the funds on time.

Another farmer, Cde Edward Raradza bemoaned the high price of the subsidised fertiliser and the failure by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to pay farmers for the deliveries and suggested that government should urgently introduce barter trade whereby farmers can exchange their maize for inputs.

Other farmers called for a revamp of the GMB distribution process which they said is characterised by a bottleneck system.
While so many explanations can be found, the stark reality on the ground is that, Zimbabwe needs food security.

Poorer countries such as Malawi have managed to introduce subsidies which have seen fertiliser in that country going for as cheap as US$7.

It is generally accepted that food is a security issue and the earlier those entrusted with allocating resources realise that, the better for Zimbabwe.