EDITORIAL COMMENT: Swift intervention on seed, fertiliser prices a masterstroke

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

AGRICULTURE is the backbone of the country’s economy. The majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas where agriculture is also the major economic activity.

According to a research by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) agriculture provides employment and income for 60-70 percent of the population, supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings.

It is generally accepted that when agriculture performs poorly, the rest of the economy suffers, says FAO.

As we inch closer to the rainy season, farmers, both commercial and communal are busy putting final touches, preparing for the planting season and as such, it had come as a major blow that shops selling seed and fertiliser had joined the bandwagon on wantonly increasing prices.

But thanks to the timely intervention by President Mnangagwa, prices have gone down.

The farming season comes against a background of the country having done well in the agricultural sector due to the success of Government programmes like Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Scheme.

Because of bumper harvests in the last two years, the country will not import maize as it has become food secure. Farmers have so far delivered 1,1 million tonnes to the Grain Marketing Board for the 2018 marketing season.

The brainchild of President Mnangagwa, Command Agriculture has also rescued thousands of farmers who would have failed to productively use their land owing to funding challenges. Banks were hesitant to extend loans to farmers.

Those offering loans demanded collateral security in the form of immovable properties, which most communal farmers do not have.

This made borrowing by farmers expensive. Through Command Agriculture, Government avails farmers with all the necessary inputs.

The programme has seen the country harvesting enough maize for consumption and there is potential to export the surplus.

“Through the Command Agriculture programme, Zimbabwe will never be food insufficient again. The Government will continue supporting farmers in tobacco, cotton farming by providing free inputs,” President Mnangagwa is on record as saying.

After prices of seed and fertiliser went up, producers last week started reducing prices following a meeting with President Mnangagwa.

Briefing journalists after the Cabinet session, 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 over 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 last Wednesday reduced the price of maize seed and fertilisers by nearly 50 percent.

Maize seed and fertiliser prices  had shot up to unprecedented levels.

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 50kg bag of fertiliser had gone up to over $100 from around $ 50 and $65.

A survey by our Harare Bureau showed that a 10kg of maize seed now costs between $42 to $55 while a 25kg 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 50kg bag. Nonetheless, farmers interviewed felt the prices needed to go down further.

The Government has also engaged other sectors of the manufacturing and retail sectors, who make sure that prices remain reasonable.