Farmer sub­si­dies here to stay: ED

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - Sun­day Mail Re­porter

GOVERN­MENT will con­tinue to sub­sidise farm­ers to en­sure both na­tional food se­cu­rity and suf­fi­cient feed­stocks for lo­cal in­dus­tries, which get 60 per­cent of their raw ma­te­ri­als from the sec­tor, Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa has said.

Sub­si­dies, he added, were not pe­cu­liar to Zimbabwe, as they are used around the world to guar­an­tee a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing for farm­ers and pro­vide a sta­ble and safe food sup­ply at af­ford­able prices.

Govern­ment has been sup­port­ing farm­ers through Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, a spe­cialised im­port sub­sti­tu­tion pro­gramme that ini­tially cov­ered maize but has since been ex­panded to other sub-sec­tors.

In his weekly col­umn in The Sun­day Mail, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa said ar­gu­ments to cut back on agri­cul­tural fund­ing were un­con­vinc­ing.

“I am alive to ar­gu­ments for cur­tail­ing Govern­ment sup­port to farm­ers, which are of­ten made on the grounds of re­duc­ing pub­lic debt. Both our na­tional food se­cu­rity re­quire­ments and agro-led in­dus­trial strat­egy make th­ese ar­gu­ments less per­sua­sive,” said Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa.

“Well-de­vel­oped economies in Euro­pean Union coun­tries, whose agri­cul­ture is highly mech­a­nised, still sub­sidise agri­cul­ture. This year alone, the Euro­pean Union, through its Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP), is pro­jected to sup­port Euro­pean farm­ers and Euro­pean ru­ral de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes to the tune of €58,8 bil­lion.”

Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, he said, was Zimbabwe’s “mod­est equiv­a­lent of the CAP”.

CAP has been in use for more than 56 years, and en­sures Euro­pean farm­ers meet the needs of 500 mil­lion Euro­peans.

De­spite th­ese mas­sive sub­si­dies to the sec­tor, agri­cul­ture and the agri­foods in­dus­try — which is heav­ily de­pen­dent on the agri­cul­tural sec­tor for its sup­plies — ac­count for six per­cent of the EU’s GDP.

This year, the EU Com­mis­sion — the EU’s high­est-de­ci­sion mak­ing body — pro­posed a mul­ti­an­nual fi­nan­cial frame­work from 2021 to 2027 which in­cludes €365 bil­lion for CAP.

Out of this amount, €265,2 bil­lion is for di­rect pay­ments, €20 bil­lion for mar­ket sup­port mea­sures, and €78,8 bil­lion for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment.

€10 bil­lion will be chan­nelled through the EU’s Hori­zon Europe pro­gramme to sup­port re­search and in­no­va­tion in food, agri­cul­ture, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and the bio-econ­omy.

Sim­i­larly, the US, the world’s biggest econ­omy, will pay out more than $12 bil­lion in sub­si­dies to farm­ers this year.

Con­versely, Zimbabwe’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor sup­ports 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion and pro­vides 60 per­cent of the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor’s raw ma­te­ri­als, mak­ing a big case for sup­port­ing farm­ers.

Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa said sub­si­dies had to be ef­fi­cient and im­pact­ful.

“The is­sue then is not to stop sub­si­dis­ing agri­cul­ture. Rather, the is­sue is to do so ef­fi­ciently, and in or­der to en­sure higher pro­duc­tiv­ity in that crit­i­cal sec­tor. Both would then guar­an­tee a sta­ble sup­ply of af­ford­able food to the con­sumer,” he said.

“On their part, farm­ers must de­velop the dis­ci­pline to work the land op­ti­mally, and to hon­our fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions aris­ing from fund­ing ar­range­ments availed to them. Ac­cess­ing in­puts for the sea­son must be con­di­tional upon demon­stra­ble com­mit­ment to ser­vice pre­vi­ous loans. That way, we guard against bloat­ing the pub­lic debt while en­sur­ing that crit­i­cal tran­si­tion of turn­ing farm­ing into busi­ness.”

Govern­ment wants to ad­dress the fact that Zimbabwe pro­duces wheat and soya beans suf­fi­cient only for three months and one month’s cover re­spec­tively.

More than $36 mil­lion monthly is spent to cover the deficit in those two crops alone.

As such, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa said Govern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor should sup­port agri­cul­ture.

“Quite need­lessly, we have be­come an im­port-de­pen­dent econ­omy in ar­eas where we have the means, but we lack the will to pro­duce. Wheat and soya should come from our land and not from im­ports.

“This re­quires busi­ness part­ner­ing Govern­ment and the farmer un­der con­tract farm­ing ar­range­ments. Redi­rect­ing a small por­tion of yearly div­i­dend to­wards mech­a­nis­ing our agri­cul­ture and to­wards in­put sup­port will def­i­nitely cre­ate enough feed­stock for our fac­to­ries. This is called en­light­ened self-in­ter­est,” he said.

Pic­ture: Ku­dak­washe Hunda

The Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices, Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Paradzayi Zi­mondi de­liv­ers an ad­dress while sur­rounded by chil­dren who ben­e­fit from the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Good­will Char­ity Fund in Harare yes­ter­day. The ZPCS Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral’s Good­will Char­ity Fund held its an­nual race day at Bor­row­dale Race­course. Jockey Wes Marn­ing, rid­ing Sy­gone, won the main race.—

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