Seed, fer­tilis­ers abound

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - BUSINESS - Enacy Ma­pakame Busi­ness Re­porter

ZIM­BABWE’s ma­jor farm­ing in­puts man­u­fac­tur­ers have as­sured grow­ers of ad­e­quate in­puts dur­ing the 2018/19 farm­ing sea­son, in­sist­ing they are ad­e­quately stocked to meet de­mand.

In sep­a­rate in­ter­views, fer­tiliser and seed pro­duc­ers said they have the ca­pac­ity to meet de­mand for the sea­son, al­lay­ing fears that the com­pa­nies could fail to meet de­mand due to chal­lenges re­lated to se­cur­ing for­eign cur­rency for the im­por­ta­tion of raw ma­te­ri­als.

On av­er­age, the grow­ers use 240 000 tonnes of com­pound fer­tilis­ers and 160 000 tonnes of am­mo­nium ni­trate, but in­di­ca­tions are that the de­mand might de­crease due to a spike in in­put prices in Oc­to­ber as well as un­pre­dictable rain­fall pat­terns this farm­ing sea­son.

State of fer­tiliser sup­ply

In an in­ter­view, Zim­babwe Fer­tiliser Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe chair­man and Chemplex chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Mr Tapiwa Mashin­gaidze said de­spite the slow move­ment of the com­mod­ity, the in­dus­try has enough stocks to meet de­mand.

The value of the bond notes and the Real Time Gross Set­tle­ment bal­ances — held by many farm­ers — was se­verely eroded fol­low­ing a spike in prices of var­i­ous com­modi­ties, in­clud­ing farm­ing in­puts.

“Com­pa­nies are com­plain­ing of low sales, but gen­er­ally stock is avail­able on the mar­ket. How­ever, there has been move­ment with sup­plies go­ing to­wards na­tional agri­cul­ture pro­grammes,” he said.

Mr Mashin­gaidze said the coun­try is fac­ing in­fla­tion­ary pres­sures but as­sured the mar­ket of fer­tiliser price sta­bil­ity.

“There were un­cer­tain­ties, es­pe­cially in Oc­to­ber; but we are be­gin­ning to see sta­bil­ity and don’t ex­pect prices to go up.

“As it is now, fer­tiliser is avail­able al­though move­ment is gen­er­ally slow. But just like any other busi­ness in Zim­babwe, we need for­eign cur­rency to keep the busi­ness run­ning smoothly,” said Mr Mashin­gaidze.

Seed avail­abil­ity

Largest seed man­u­fac­turer — SeedCo Lim­ited also said the com­pany has enough ca­pac­ity to meet the lo­cal mar­ket’s seed re­quire­ments for this plant­ing sea­son.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mr Mor­gan Nzwere said de­spite the eco­nomic tur­bu­lence and un­cer­tain­ties that come with it, the mar­ket is guar­an­teed of enough sup­plies for seed in this sea­son at af­ford­able prices.

He said seed is a ba­sic com­mod­ity and its avail­abil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity is a pri­or­ity for the com­pany.

“Our ca­pac­ity to meet de­mand is not com­pro­mised. The seed will be avail­able and has to re­main af­ford­able for the cus­tomers. On the other hand, the com­pany has to eval­u­ate its ca­pac­ity to pay the grow­ers due to the in­fla­tion­ary prices that are af­fect­ing the econ­omy as a whole,” he said in an in­ter­view on the side­lines of the Group’s fi­nan­cial re­sults pre­sen­ta­tion.

Seed pro­duc­ers are on record say­ing they have enough maize seed to cater for 1 880 000 hectares, 80 000 hectares of wheat, 85 000 hectares of soy­abeans, 28 000 hectares of mil­let, 250 000 hectares of white sorghum, 3 000 hectares of red sorghum, 13 000 hectares of ground­nuts, 50 000 hectares of cow­peas and 450 000 hectares of cot­ton.

Farm­ers dis­turbed by price hike

On the other hand, farm­ers have be­moaned the Oc­to­ber in­put price in­creases, say­ing the in­creases de­railed their plans.

The price of am­mo­nium ni­trate and com­pound D fer­tilis­ers, depend­ing on the brand, is be­tween $45 and $51 for 50kg bags while a 10kg pocket of seed is go­ing for be­tween $42 and $57. These prices are too steep for most farm­ers.

To make mat­ters worse, some sup­pli­ers are de­mand­ing pay­ments in hard cur­rency, fur­ther com­pound­ing the farm­ers’ ef­forts to re­tool and pur­chase es­sen­tial in­puts.

“As farm­ers, we are pre­pared. We have been pre­pared since Au­gust but got con­fronted by price in­creases in Oc­to­ber af­ter we had al­ready done our bud­gets,” said Fed­er­a­tion of Farm­ers’ Unions chair­man Mr Won­der Chabikwa.

To add to the farm­ers’ woes, fore­casts of nor­mal to below nor­mal rain­fall were made.

Mr Chabikwa said farm­ers have been mov­ing to­wards early ma­tur­ing va­ri­eties as well as small grains to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of a pos­si­ble drought this sea­son and be­yond.

Ir­ri­gation key to farm­ing suc­cess

Some agron­o­mists have called for the ex­pan­sion of ir­ri­gation fa­cil­i­ties as well as the de­vel­op­ment of rain wa­ter har­vest­ing tech­niques. Last year, the Gov­ern­ment launched the Com­mand Wa­ter Har­vest­ing pro­gramme, which is aimed at trans­form­ing the liveli­hoods of peo­ple in com­mu­nal and farm­ing ar­eas.

Un­der this pro­gramme, there shall be con­struc­tion of dams and small weirs on rivers to al­low for the col­lec­tion of wa­ter dur­ing the rainy sea­son for use dur­ing the dry pe­ri­ods to en­sure all-year crop pro­duc­tion.

The com­ple­tion and com­mis­sion­ing of the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam in Chivi dis­trict opened up 25 000 hectares to year-round ir­ri­gation with a ca­pac­ity of 1, 8 mil­lion ML and a yield of 364 000 ML of wa­ter per hour.

The dam should also pro­vide ir­ri­gation wa­ter to Lowveld cane plan­ta­tions, with sugar out­put ex­pected to grow by 15 per­cent as a re­sult, as well as cre­at­ing a vi­brant aqua­cul­ture project un­der the Com­mand Fish­ing project.

The United Na­tions-led In­ter­na­tional Fund for Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment (IFad) has also made calls for Zim­babwe to in­vest more in ir­ri­gation to mit­i­gate against drought and poverty.

Ac­cord­ing to IFad, over 27 700 poor ru­ral house­holds can ben­e­fit from the Small Ir­ri­gation Re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion Pro­gramme, which aims to re­vi­talise 6 100 hectares in 152 ex­ist­ing small-holder ir­ri­gation schemes in the semi-arid zones in some parts of the coun­try.

The Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO) says Zim­babwe has more than 12 000 small to medium in­land dams that can also help in ir­ri­gation schemes.

As of De­cem­ber 3, 2018, most ma­jor dams’ ca­pac­i­ties were above 50 per­cent full, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Zim­babwe Na­tional Wa­ter Au­thor­ity. The na­tion could tap into the avail­able nat­u­ral re­source for ir­ri­gation pur­poses.

Dur­ing the 2015/16 agri­cul­ture sea­son, Sub Sa­ha­ran Africa was plunged into drought as a re­sult of the El Nino weather phe­nom­e­non which cut out­put se­verely, es­pe­cially for small scale farm­ers who are the coun­try’s largest pro­duc­ers of grain and to­bacco.

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