Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector is critical in unlocking value to the entire economy, however huge debts, climate change threats, high costs of inputs, limited production, subdued capacity utilisation as well as producer price distortions for some commodities are affecting viability.
Zimbabwe is an agriculture based economy and the sector is key to the nations’ developmental thrust with the just ended 2016/ 2017 summer cropping season providing bright prospects for a 3,7 percent economic growth rate on the back of a good harvest.
While the sector embraces a business model where a farmer has to inject funds to sustain operations, the current situation whereby most farmers are owing banks, creditors and financiers huge debts, coupled with high production costs pose threats to profitability in the long term, says Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) President, Mr Wonder Chabikwa.
With climate change creating its own problems in terms of planning, the phenomenon is further worsening the plight of the farmers and hindering increased capacity to sustain farming development, said Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) Vice Life President, Dr Robby Mupawose.
While food security is critical in facilitating the growth of the manufacturing industries, ZFC Managing Director, Dr Richard Dafana said limited production has also resulted in firms that rely on agricultural inputs such as cooking oil processors, bakeries, millers, meat processors among others having to some extent rely on imports.
Sound financing and up scaling the productive yield are among the critical recommendations proffered by industry players to address threats to viability.
The positive outlook projected for the 2017/18 provides hope for the country to further build on its economic revival while ensuring food security.
The existing gaps on high cost of money and low repayments by farmers can be resolved through effective engagements between the financial and the agriculture industry.
Soil acidity and liming are factors that have resulted in low productivity, and this can be circumvented through enhanced empowerment of small holder farmers.
While current efforts by the government to support the agriculture sector are laudable, there also is the need to incentivise farmers to motivate them towards up scaling production.
The reality of the changing climate patterns now requires enhanced investment in research and awareness to identify suitable crops for the different ecological zones in the country.