Zim food secure, says President

Zimbabwe’s food security is guaranteed, with the country set to hold a grain surplus in excess of 100 000 tonnes carried over from last season’s bumper harvest this year, President Mnangagwa has said. Writing in his column for The Sunday Mail, President Mnangagwa said the Government was introducing a cocktail of interventions to stimulate grain production and climate-proof agriculture to ensure the country was food secure at all times.

He said measures being rolled out included reviewing the grain producer price, accelerating the development of irrigation programmes and facilitating localisation of the production of key agriculture inputs. The President said the Presidential Input Support Programme will also be enhanced, with inputs set to be distributed before the onset of the summer cropping season, while the Pfumvudza programme would be streamlined through the introduction of efficient tillage technologies.

“The just-ended 2021-22 season has not been that good,” said President Mnangagwa. “It was slow to start and characterised by poor and erratic rains. “As if that was not bad enough, the country was hit by a severe early-to-mid-season drought which subjected most crops to severe moisture stress. “As I indicated, five provinces (Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South) were hit hardest and could not recover. “Because of that, our harvest has come down to 1,8 million tonnes, 400 000 tonnes short of our yearly national requirement of 2,2 million tonnes.

“Thankfully, our Strategic Grain Reserves, SGR, hold 500 000 tonnes from the 2020-21 season. “That means we exceed our yearly national grain needs by some 100 000 tonnes, which we expect to remain in SGR until the next harvest. “We thus are food secure.” He said interventions to support farmers were being rolled out to ensure that local grain production meets demand.

To guarantee farmers’ viability, the President said, the grain producer price is being reviewed. The maize producer price is currently pegged at $58 553 per tonne. Recently, Government introduced a US-dollar incentive for early grain deliveries with farmers now entitled to 30 percent of their payment in foreign currency, while the balance is being paid in local currency. The US-dollar incentive is calculated at the willing-buyer, willing-seller exchange rate on the date of delivery.

“Beyond food distribution, Government must ensure the nation is ready for the 2022/23 season. “In essence, this means Government must ensure the farmer is able to “go back to the land with great expectation in the coming season. “I am aware that we have already announced producer prices for the current season, including undertaking to pay 30 percent of early deliveries in United States dollars. “Still, all that is not adequate to get the farmer back onto the land in the next season.” He said there have been significant price movements since the announcement of this season’s producer prices.

“These price movements were partly related to the unstable exchange rate; they have made those producer prices announced earlier on non-viable to the farmer. “The farmer must be supported. “I have directed Government to revise grain producer prices so they are adjusted in the light of the aforesaid movements, and to ensure farmers are motivated to go back to the land in the coming season.” In light of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe, said the President, Government was actively pursuing the localisation of the production of key agriculture inputs.

He added: “Government will also address prices of inputs so farming remains viable, making food both abundant and affordable. “On my part, the Presidential Input Support Programme will be enhanced so our small farmers escape the ratchet effect from the bad 2021/22 season. “Distribution of inputs will start early, buttressed by more efficient tillage technologies which the responsible Ministry is developing to support the Pfumvudza Programme.”

Addressing the recent public anxieties caused by news that the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe was set to import around 400 000 tonnes of grain, President Mnangagwa said it was policy that private millers should meet 40 percent of their grain needs. He said it was this portion that GMAZ was importing. “The policy is meant to nudge them towards playing their part in supporting local farmers through contract growing,” added the President.

“These farmers, after all, are prime producers of the raw materials which drive their milling business. “GMAZ must thus play a part through such backward linkages. “Where such arrangements fall short of 40 percent of their grain requirements, GMAZ is expected to meet the shortfall through purchases or imports paid from own funds. “That measure protects our Strategic Grain Reserves, while also ensuring Government has enough grain from the crop it will have wholly funded to meet needs of the vulnerable in our society. “Above all, the policy ensures millers share the burden of funding grain production in the country. “As private players, Government cannot subsidise them through the Government-guaranteed contract growing scheme.”

President Mnangagwa said the recent announcement of measures to regulate the movement of grain were meant to curb side-marketing. He said self-sponsored farmers are exempt from the regulations upon applying for a special permit from the Grain Marketing Board. “Farmers falling outside Government-guaranteed producer contracts can retain or freely market their grain to markets of their choice by getting exemption permits from GMB,” he said. “Such permits clear them to move grain as they see fit, but within the country.”


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