Fertiliser, seed producers can still do better
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.