Government yesterday said there is no reason for maize seed producers to hike prices, and it will take measures to protect farmers against the unwarranted behaviour by the manufacturers.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said there was no justification for seed producers to hike prices.
Seed producers are selling a 10kg bag of maize seed at slightly above $100, up from $25 last farming season, while a 25kg bag is being sold at about $250 from $70 last season.
The increases are a sign that maize seed producers have joined the bandwagon of unilateral price hikers.
“The price increases are absolutely not justified,” said Minister Ndlovu. “We are worried as Government especially as it comes at a time that our farmers are preparing to go back to till their land.”
Minister Ndlovu said Government will engage the seed producing firms and corrective action would be taken.
“Our policy has not been that of imposing price controls, but to engage,” he said. “We will engage stakeholders just as we did with the intended increase on bread price.”
Minister Ndlovu said prices would soon fall as Government was taking measures to stabilise the economy.
“The prices will soon go down owing to some fundamentals,” he said. “We expect the measures to stabilise the economy to start bearing fruits. But as Government, we will not use price controls as a weapon to rein in on prices.”
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Mr Paul Zakaria bemoaned the hiking of maize seed prices.
“The prices have to be commensurate with producer prices,” he said. “If the price of maize seed is to be allowed to be where it is now, as farmers we will push for a review of the producer price so as to accommodate the new price of inputs.”
Mr Zakaria called for a social contract between Government, industry and consumers to safeguard the interests of ordinary people.
“If these prices are not reined in, farmers will downsize their production because of unaffordable costs of inputs,” he said. “This will obviously affect production. There is, therefore, a need for a social contract between Government, business and consumers.
“Otherwise as farmers we will push for a review of producer price and this will have an effect on taxpayers.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said farmers were shocked by the prices of maize seed obtaining on the market.
“It is a huge shock for the farmers and what it means is that farmers will not afford to buy maize seed at those prices,” he said. “It basically means that a farmer would need $250 per hectare for seed only before other inputs are added, yet they have already sold their maize to the Grain Marketing Board at $390 per tonne.
“Normally, by this time farmers would have already prepared for the farming season, but unfortunately this time they have been hit by hard times.”
Mr Chabikwa urged Government to urgently intervene and correct the maize seed prices before the rains fall.
“There is a need for Government to urgently intervene because if a farmer fails to plant this season it will have a lot of implications on what the future of our country would be,” he said.
“Farm workers will lose jobs and there will be food shortages, among other factors.”