Zimbabwean producers in aggressive marketing as agricultural inputs flood market

08:52, November 05, 2010      

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Zimbabwe's seed houses are trying to outdo each other in courting buyers for their products, as the country gears for one of the most prosperous farming season in years.

While in the past seed and fertilizer companies had ceased advertizing their products, which were largely found on the black market anyway, an abundance of seed such as maize and soya beans and various types of fertilizers has galvanized them to aggressively market their products in the face of competition.

Zimbabwe has at least four seed houses whose products range from early maturing crops to long-term varieties.

A decade-long decline in agricultural production, which started with the contentious government-driven land reforms in which former white commercial farmers lost their land to landless blacks had led to a shortage of inputs, especially seed and fertilizers.

Poor planning on the part of the government and agricultural companies in relation to importing inputs on time also contributed to Zimbabwe's food deficit, to the extent that the country's agricultural status quickly declined from that of being Africa's breadbasket to becoming a basket case.

However, things are beginning to look up and farmers are looking forward to good harvests, as long as they have enough money to buy the required inputs and the rains do not fail. Weather experts have predicted normal to above normal rains this coming agricultural season.

Dennis Zaranyika, managing director of one of the country's leading seed houses, this week expressed concern over the low uptake of inputs from retail outlets, attributing this to lack of access to funds by farmers.

"We have more than doubled seed production this season and the only worry is the low uptake by farmers.

"The market needs to be stimulated to see the seed piles going to the farmers," the Seed Co boss told the daily newspaper The Herald.

So far, the government and the international donor community have put up a 52 million U.S. dollar inputs package to benefit close to 1 million smallholder farmers who will get subsidized inputs. Vulnerable farmers will also get assistance under an 8 million U.S. dollar inputs for work program.

With some farmers being catered for by the government and the donor community, most of the inputs in the shops are specifically for the large-scale commercial farmers and other smallholder farmers who do not qualify for subsidized inputs.

Commercial farmers, by their nature, are not supposed to benefit from handouts but may enjoy the benefits of subsidized inputs, if they are available.

But with Zimbabwe's economy still on its knees, the government has not been able to give the farmers all the necessary support, while banks have also not been forthcoming because of lack of collateral on the farms.

According to the country's laws, land is state property and thus not transferable, a position which does not give the financial institutions incentives to support farming.

Banks and fertilizer companies this week announced the creation of a credit facility whereby farmers will pay for the commodity after harvesting their crops.

However, seed houses are not comfortable with the arrangement, arguing that there is no guarantee that the farmers will pay back.

While the government generally tends to support food crops, farmers are opting for cash crops such as tobacco which fetch more money on the auction floors.

Source: Xinhua


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