THE GOVERNMENT’S projected 9% growth for agriculture next year will remain a pie in the sky largely due to unavailability of finance for farmers, the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) has said.
CFU president Charles Taffs said government projections were too ambitious and at most the sector could achieve 1% growth helped by the anticipated increase in tobacco production.
“The government projected 9% growth is not achievable as there are no resources to sustain that,” he told Southern Eye in an interview.
“There is no funding and in such a scenario how do we sustain such growth?
“To achieve the target, agriculture funding must be on the right footing, banks should first reignite funding of the sector and then we can even achieve 10% growth.”
Banks have been struggling to finance agriculture due to a persistent financial squeeze with most farmers failing to access the limited available funds largely due to lack of collateral.
Taffs said agriculture funding was declining as the government continued to struggle to make funds available to farmers.
Presenting the 2014 budget recently Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa projected a 9% growth for agriculture next year buoyed largely by growth in crops that include maize, cotton, soya beans and groundnuts.
Chinamasa said the growth would be sustained by the improved state of preparedness, sustainable planned financial arrangements and availability of inputs.
He said cotton production would increase from 14 000 tonnes this year to 18 000 tonnes underpinned by an anticipated increase in local demand.
But Taffs said the only crop likely to record positive growth next year was tobacco.
CFU recently predicted another poor agricultural season citing shoddy preparations for the current planting season caused by a shortage of inputs and working capital. Taffs said most farmers failed to get loans to purchase inputs due to the prevalent liquidity crunch. He said most likely the country would experience lower yields next year compared to the 2012-2013 period.
“Due to the persistent liquidity crunch, we could not get money to purchase inputs and this means we are likely to have a worse farming season than last year,” he added.
Zimbabwe this year experienced a serious maize deficit, forcing it to import grain after harvesting only 750 000 metric tonnes of maize.
The government imported 150 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia to cover for the deficit, with some of the maize already distributed, especially in the southern parts of the country, ranked as the hardest hit.