Thursday, May 20, 2010

Zimbabwe Agricultural Update: Reclaim Breadbasket Status; MOU Signed With Brazil; Cotton Prices Spark Violence

‘Zim can reclaim breadbasket status’

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWE has the potential to re-gain its position as the breadbasket of Southern Africa, an official with a leading seed firm has said.

Seed Co sales and marketing manager Mr Ivan Craig said this while addressing farmers from Mhondoro who attended a recent training programme at Rattaray Arnold Research Station.

"Farmers in Zimbabwe have to start working hard to achieve high yields which will ensure that we regain our position as the breadbasket of Africa.

"We have the potential to supply the whole region with maize," he said.

Mr Craig said Seed Co was launching a competition for farmers to motivate them to increase their yields.

"We are launching a 10-tonne competition for farmers in Mhondoro as a move to encourage high yields and ensure food security," he said.

Seed Co research manager Dr Ephraim Hazvidi said there was need for stakeholders to support educational outreach programmes for farmers.

"What we need in our farmers is motivation, so training programmes like this should be held regularly around the country and stakeholders should assist in imparting knowledge to the farmers," he said.

Dr Hazvidi urged farmers to grow a variety crops as a way of spreading their risk.

Zim, Brazil sign MoU

Agriculture Reporter

Zimbabwe and Brazil have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish bilateral co-operation in family agriculture and rural development.

According to the MoU signed by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made and Brazil’s Agrarian Development Minister Guilherne Cassel in Rio de Janeiro recently, the two will also focus on biofuels and renewable energy development.

The main emphasis will be on "promotion of the exchange of experiences, governmental and non-governmental experts and specialists mainly in family farming, food and nutrition, rural development, co-operatives and association, research and rural extension, technical extension and capacity building".

"Zimbabwe and Brazil agreed that promotion of family farming and rural development require the recognition of differentiated social, economic, political, historical and environmental conditions between the countries," an Agriculture Ministry official said yesterday.

The parties will sign other instruments to operationalise components of the MOU.

Family farming is key to household food security and accounts for over 70 percent of Brazil’s production.

Brazil’s agriculture sector is highly diversified and the country is largely food self-sufficient.

Cotton prices spark violence

By Noah Pito and Elita Chikwati

THE stand-off over cotton prices has turned violent with farmers alleging intimidation and harassment when they try to sell their crop.

Farmers willing to sell their crop allege that their boycotting counterparts have threatened them if they dispose of the crop.

Some farmers have vowed not to sell their produce at 30 US cents per kg but others say the boycott will hurt them as they need money to pay school fees and public examination fees for their children.

A contract farmer, Mr Phanel Midzi of Chamba Village under Chief Dendera, said he could not sell his crop because he was afraid of physical attacks from his colleagues.

"It’s dangerous to go to the depots and collect wool packs for baling the crop. If you are spotted by fellow cotton farmers they will definitely beat you up or even burn the packs.

"Even if you succeed in sneaking to your home with the packs, more danger awaits you when it comes to transporting them to the depots.

"You are either beaten up or your cotton goes up in flames as punishment for failing to act in solidarity with the other farmers," he alleged.

Cases of intimidation and harassment of farmers have been reported in Nyamakate, Kazangarare, Kasimure, Deve and Doro.

A tractor laden with some bales was reportedly about to be torched by angry boycotting farmers at Zvipani Business Centre last week.

Police said they were investigating all reported incidences and urged farmers to find amicable ways of settling the matter.

Worsening the situation, farmers allege buyers are not accepting cotton from independent growers as they await the contracted crop.

Mr Brighton Muzira of Mukuyu Farm said he had approached three companies in a bid to sell part of his more than 3 000kg of the "white gold".

He was turned away because the firms were giving first preference to contract growers.

Chief Nematombo last Friday said cotton merchants should increase the price to at least 50 US cents per kg and encouraged Government to subsidise the industry.

ZFU director Mr Paul Zakariya said: "Few farmers are selling their crop to some small ginneries and there are reports that some are selling their crop at 45 US cents per kg."

Muzarabani cotton grower Mr Laiton Mahwenda, who recently sold his crop, said many growers in his area were not picking their cotton. "I realised that it would not help if I continue to hold on to my crop. We are told that companies will have to pay adjustments in the end so we will have to wait for that," he said.

According to Cottco, the crop deteriorates when stored under sub-optimal conditions.

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