EDITORIAL COMMENT: Fertiliser price cut boost for food security

fertilizaThe decision by the fertiliser industry to slash the price of fertiliser by 20 percent has potential to boost agricultural output for the 2015/16 agricultural season and beyond if all stakeholders play ball.

Unlike other sectors of the economy, agriculture is one of the few that Zimbabweans -rich, poor, educated, uneducated, young and old – can contribute towards national economic development in a major way.

Now that fertiliser firms have resolved to reduce the price of their products as they begin to enjoy economies of scale, we expect massive reductions that will see many farmers improving on quality and output of their crops in fulfilment of Zim-Asset.

As the country enjoys food security and nutrition according to the economic blueprint, we also expect serious beneficiation to start at farmer and later national levels.

The food security issue is very emotive and we implore Government and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector to ensure that the poorest farmer in remote parts of the country benefits from the firms’ initiatives.

Fertiliser has been sold at around $38 per 50kg bag for both ammonium nitrate and compounds and we expect farmers to buy the commodity at around $30.

It is indeed welcome news from the fertiliser firms’ spokesman, Mr Misheck Kachere, that the capacity of the companies increased from last year’s 30 percent to the current 80 percent.

This is likely to see a sustained downward trend in inputs prices.

We suggest that massive publicity programmes be carried out countrywide for the farmers to know when they should start enjoying the low prices to stop some unscrupulous businesspeople from feasting on their ignorance.

The inputs should also be distributed to collection points on time to ensure that farmers plant on time and improve on quality of yields.

The efforts by fertiliser firms to self-regulate and reduce prices without Government influence should be emulated by those in the agro-chemicals business to ensure an affordable package.

Those in the livestock business should also benefit from price reductions, too.

Inasmuch as the estimated price of $30 per bag is still marginally high, the industry must be supported for initiating the reduction.

Big economies such as America provide huge subsidies for the farmers and is also our hope that out of the money meant for farmers’ subsidies, it should be enjoyed at buying points as discounts. If this does not work, farmers can enjoy their subsidies when they deliver products such as maize and tobacco to the market.

If the subsidy is enjoyed at buying points, it means farmers will by more fertiliser and increase hectarage and when they are enjoyed at selling points, it means more crops will be delivered to State organs such as the Grain Marketing Board.

We discourage Government from giving farmers fertiliser and other inputs for free, because history has shown that influential politicians and undeserving people will use patronage to grab more at the expense of genuine beneficiaries.

We want to assume that as the fertiliser firms retool, improve on efficiency, and produce more at low costs, farmers will continue improving on their output and eventually help Zimbabwe regain its breadbasket status.

As national economic managers continue to craft solutions for our agriculture sector, Government should not put local fertiliser companies under unnecessary competition from cheap import substitutes.

Money accessed through bilateral deals should be used to boost local production and create jobs rather than export jobs.

Besides, local fertiliser firms have done massive research on crop requirements and are producing products that suit local soils compared to some fertilisers imported from other countries.

Therefore, the initiatives by local fertiliser companies need everyone’s support, especially Government, through policies that enable them to improve on productivity that will eventually see our farmers enjoying low prices.