Price mad­ness hits agric sec­tor:

THE price in­crease mad­ness ob­tain­ing through­out the coun­try could re­v­erse re­cent gains made in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, farm­ers have warned.

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Har­mony Agere

THE warn­ing comes at a time when the coun­try has made re­mark­able strides to­wards re­gain­ing self-suf­fi­ciency in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion since pro­duc­tion fell sharply in 2002. At 238 kilo­grams, to­bacco out­put broke the all-time high record of 236 kilo­grams achieved in 2001.

On the other hand, maize de­liv­er­ies to the Grain Mar­ket­ing Board have al­ready sur­passed the 1,1 mil­lion tonne mark for the sec­ond year run­ning.

Wheat, cot­ton and soya bean have also made im­pres­sive gains with pro­duc­tion im­prov­ing by over 50 per­cent.

Much of the suc­cess is owed to out­grower schemes backed by both the Gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

The achieve­ments earned farm­ers in­creased in­come, which en­abled them to ex­pand their op­er­a­tions.

How­ever, th­ese gains could be re­versed due to the sky­rock­et­ing prices for in­puts.

Farm­ers say this sea­son, the cost of pro­duc­tion in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor could con­se­quently rise by at least 30 per­cent.

This comes as a re­sult of un­re­stricted par­al­lel money mar­ket and spec­u­la­tion.

Farm­ers also lament that the de­vel­op­ment could wipe out their in­vest­ments if they fail to re­cover their costs.

It is par­tic­u­larly the im­ported items that have gone higher as sup­pli­ers use for­eign cur­rency to im­port.

Sup­pli­ers have also taken ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to spec­u­late the prices of lo­cally-man­u­fac­tured goods, thereby push­ing the prices higher.

Farm­ers have also lamented that the ob­tain­ing in­sta­bil­ity has dis­rupted strate­gic plan­ning as most had al­ready planned for the whole sea­son.

A sur­vey car­ried out by The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety showed that most re­tail­ers, both in­for­mal and for­mal, had hiked the price for fer­tiliser with a 50 kilo­gramme bag of Am­mo­nium Ni­trate selling at be­tween $55 and $65.

Com­pound D was not avail­able in most re­tail out­lets but was re­ported to be selling at $55 per 50kg bag.

Th­ese are sig­nif­i­cant in­creases from the 2016⁄17 sea­son when fer­tiliser sold at $27 for the same quan­ti­ties.

A 5kg bag of maize seed costs be­tween $17 and $18,50, de­pend­ing on the va­ri­ety while a 10kg bag costs be­tween $32,50 and $40 and a 25kg bag is selling for be­tween $79 and $88.

Zim­babwe Com­mer­cial Farm­ers Union (ZCFU) pres­i­dent, Mr Won­der Chabikwa con­firmed the de­vel­op­ments.

“They (sup­pli­ers) would not ad­mit it but the fact is that the prices have gone up. You go to the sup­plier and they tell you they don’t have the prod­uct but then you find it in a cer­tain shop go­ing for a very high price,” he said.

“As such, we see a rise in cost of pro­duc­tion by be­tween 30 and 40 per­cent and this could be bad news for farm­ers.

“This has im­pacted very neg­a­tively in terms of plan­ning for the farm­ers be­cause most had al­ready com­pleted their bud­get­ing.”

Zim­babwe Farm­ers Union di­rec­tor, Mr Paul Zakariya weighed in, say­ing there has been an in­crease in the price of im­ported agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

“The sit­u­a­tion is not as bad as it is with ba­sic com­modi­ties but we are fac­ing chal­lenges, es­pe­cially for im­ported items like chem­i­cals. We are also an­tic­i­pat­ing a rise in tillage costs be­cause the cost of equip­ment such as trac­tors has gone up by up to 100 per­cent.

“A 75 horse­power trac­tor, which not so long ago was go­ing for a fig­ure around $30 000, is now around $65 000.

“The price hikes are push­ing the cost of pro­duc­tion higher and this could re­v­erse the gains reg­is­tered in the last few years.

“We hope that the mar­ket will re­spond favourably, oth­er­wise farm­ers will not be able to re­cover their costs.”

In 2016, it cost roughly $1 055 per hectare to pro­duce dry land maize and over $1 500 per hectare for the ir­ri­gated crop.

Fig­ures pro­vided by ZCFU showed that on labour costs per hectare, most farm­ers used $95 from plant­ing to har­vest­ing, while $47,43 was needed for a 25kg bag of seed to cover a hectare.

Other costs in­cluded $384,24 for fer­tiliser, $38,58 for her­bi­cides, $8,70 for in­sec­ti­cides, $31,50 for grain bags, $60,38 for trans­port, $7,32 for in­sur­ance, $7,98 on levies and $9,73 for sundry ex­penses.

In­di­rect costs re­lated to op­er­at­ing a trac­tor were $193,79 for fuel, $72,02 for oils, $19,08 for fil­ters and $7,08 for tyre punc­tures.

When all the fig­ures are added, the to­tal — de­pend­ing with the area — was be­tween $982,82 and $1 055 per hectare. How­ever, most of the prices have since in­creased by 50 to 100 per­cent, with most of the items only avail­able on the black mar­ket.

Given the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, farm­ers could in­cur costs of over $1500 to fi­nance a hectare of maize.

How­ever, with farm­ers strug­gling to achieve even yields, it may be dif­fi­cult for them to pro­duce a crop that gives them $1 500 per hectare bas­ing on the cur­rent pro­ducer price of US$390.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, the over­all maize yield per hectare has, for the past cou­ple of years, been av­er­ag­ing around 0,85 tonnes per hectare.

Us­ing the cur­rent pro­ducer price, this has a value of US$331, 50.

In South Africa and Zam­bia, it costs be­tween R7 500 and R9 000 to pro­duce a hectare of maize, which is about $700 and $850 when con­verted to United States dol­lars.

Farm­ers say the high cost of in­puts such as fer­tiliser, seeds, pes­ti­cides, and farm­ing ma­chin­ery is mak­ing farm­ing ex­pen­sive.

Most farm­ers said they are now re­ly­ing on Com­mand Agri­cul­ture to sus­tain their op­er­a­tions, while some com­mu­nal farm­ers are bank­ing on the Pres­i­den­tial Well-Wish­ers In­puts Scheme.

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