Fer­tiliser, seed pro­duc­ers can still do bet­ter

The Manica Post - - Local News -

THE de­ci­sion by fer­tiliser and seed pro­duc­ers to re­vise prices of their prod­ucts down­wards is a step in the right di­rec­tion if up­held for the en­tire sea­son.

In fact, it may still be nec­es­sary for them to en­gage other stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing Gov­ern­ment for a joint re­view of their lat­est price regimes to ex­am­ine how all par­ties will ben­e­fit.

Spe­cial men­tion should of course go to Pres­i­dent Cde Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa for find­ing time to meet the fer­tiliser and seed pro­duc­ers fol­low­ing the out­cry over the run­away prices.

That meet­ing es­sen­tially gave the seed and fer­tiliser in­dus­tries the as­sur­ance they needed that Gov­ern­ment would not aban­don them should they adopt a com­pro­mised po­si­tion on the prices of their prod­ucts.

Sur­veys in­di­cate that prices have since been slashed by at least 50 per­cent, which demon­strates some com­mit­ment on the part of both fer­tiliser and seed pro­duc­ers to sup­port agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity.

How­ever, the new prices are not yet very com­pet­i­tive on the part of con­sumers.

The re­al­ity on the ground is that the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers who are hit hard­est are those that produce food crops and are im­por­tant play­ers in the na­tional food se­cu­rity ma­trix.

They need prices that al­low them to produce enough for their do­mes­tic needs and sell sur­plus to the Grain Mar­ket­ing Board (GMB) and boost the strate­gic grain re­serves.

If the costs of fi­nanc­ing a hectare go be­yond $390, the price for a tonne of maize, when most farm­ers in the small­holder sec­tor strug­gle to break a tonne per hectare, then they will in­cur heavy losses.

The run­away prices are a sure recipe for food in­se­cu­rity, as most farm­ers will not be able to fi­nance their op­er­a­tions while those that have their own fi­nan­cial means might end up re­duc­ing hec­tarage in tan­dem with the seed and fer­tiliser prices, which is again a threat to food se­cu­rity.

Of course, Gov­ern­ment can help the sit­u­a­tion by sub­si­dis­ing in­puts at the man­u­fac­tur­ing stage to en­able farm­ers to ac­cess af­ford­able in­puts while en­sur­ing that pro­duc­ers of the ba­sic in­puts also re­main in busi­ness.

Al­ter­na­tively, Gov­ern­ment could also con­sider rais­ing the price of a tonne of maize to make up for the high costs of pro­duc­tion, but that would fur­ther make our tonne of maize the most expensive in the re­gion, if not glob­ally.

Our tonne of maize is al­ready is very expensive com­pared to prices other maize pro­duc­ing coun­tries are of­fer­ing, which will scare away busi­ness should we beat our tar­get of re­claim­ing the bread bas­ket of Africa sta­tus once again.

The painful re­al­ity on the ground is that if the high in­put prices are al­lowed to stand, then farm­ers will also be forced to lobby for higher pro­ducer prices that will strain Gov­ern­ment cof­fers im­mensely and fur­ther desta­bilise the econ­omy, which we are all try­ing to sta­bilise.

As the sit­u­a­tion stands, only those farm­ers get­ting in­puts through Com­mand Agri­cul­ture or the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Scheme will be able to produce rea­son­ably, but not to ca­pac­ity, as the ma­jor­ity of them also still need to buy their own in­puts and sup­ple­ment what would have come from Gov­ern­ment.

This nat­u­rally boosts both their earn­ings and boost­ing food se­cu­rity too.

The in­puts price in­creases have also come at a very bad time when the sea­sonal fore­cast is sug­gest­ing a very dif­fi­cult out­ing ahead. If the sea­son was go­ing to be good in terms of rain­fall, then farm­ers would at least find so­lace in the fact that they can make up for the high pro­duc­tion costs through high re­turns from their crops and to some ex­tent come closer to break­ing even.

We hope Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to watch the sit­u­a­tion with­out tir­ing so that both farm­ers and in­puts pro­duc­ers get what they right­fully de­serve, come the end of ev­ery crop­ping sea­son.

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