Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Seed and fertiliser producers yesterday started reducing prices following Monday’s meeting with the President.
Briefing journalists after the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed the meeting.
“After Cabinet, the President held a follow-up meeting with seed producers and fertiliser producers as you are aware there is an outcry there of the prices.
“At this meeting, the President was formally informed of the positive developments regarding the prices, which are now being continuously reviewed downwards so that at least our people can go back to the fields,” she said.
Seed and fertiliser producers had by yesterday reduced the price of maize seed and fertilisers by nearly 50 percent with some farmers feeling the new prices are still out of their reach.
Maize seed and fertiliser prices shot up to unprecedented levels last week. A 10 kilogramme bag of maize seed was pegged at between $90 and $100 from around $30 while a 25 kilogramme bag was being sold at prices ranging from $170 to $251 up from around $70.
The price of a 50 kg bag of fertiliser had gone up to over $100 from around $ 50 and $65.
A survey by The Herald yesterday showed that a 10 kg of maize seed now costs between $42 to $55 while a 25 kg bag now costs between $111 and $137 depending on the variety and seed house. Fertiliser prices are back to between $50 and $65 for a 50 kg bag.
Most farmers who are self-financed yesterday said the reduction in seed and fertiliser prices was a welcome development but insisted few will be able to go back to the land and make meaningful profits as production costs were still high.
Others said they were contemplating reducing the hectarage they would put under maize due to the increase in production costs and the possibility of the El-Nino phenomenon.
Some farmers said they were rushing to buy fertilisers and seed before prices increase again as there was still uncertainty on whether the prices would continue coming down or would start rising again.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo yesterday pleaded with authorities to reduce the prices further.
“The prices are still high and we will not be able to break even or the producer prices should be increased. Farmers contribute immensely to the economy and their plight should be addressed.
“It is better for Government to subsidise inputs at manufacturing level so that the farmer accesses affordable fertilisers and chemicals. We should even be able to access affordable machinery. Women farmers have been affected by the increases and are appealing to authorities to intervene,” she said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya yesterday said there was need for the prices to continue coming down.
“The revised prices are denoting 100 percent increase on the original. What is justifying the inputs price increases? If not addressed, farmers will be forced to seriously downsize. Eventually, farmers will also be forced to push for higher producer prices. This will have a very negative impact on most of the plans to stabilise our economy,” he said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa said: “the “reduced” prices provide some relief but were not sufficient to maintain budgeted hectarages especially by self-financing farmers.
“These prices are still too high. Prices prevailing as at September 30 and October 1, 2018 are the ones farmers used in their budgets. The prices are unviable unless the producer prices are revised by the same margins,” he said.
Mr Chabikwa said only those farmers under Command Agriculture and beneficiaries of the Presidential Inputs Scheme would go back to the land without challenges if prices continue to rise.
“It seems those under Command Agriculture will go back to the land this season. Thanks to the Presidential Input Scheme, which ensured farmers had inputs early before the season, farmers under the scheme will also be able to return to the land,” he said.
Government recently said there was no reason for maize seed producers to hike prices as it promised to take measures to protect farmers from the unwarranted behaviour by the manufacturers.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said there was no justification for seed producers to increase prices.