Saturday, August 28, 2010

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe Says 'We Must Not Abandon Farmers'

We must not abandon farmers — President

By Takunda Maodza
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mugabe has called for Zimbabweans to put their heads together and come up with a planned agricultural financing strategy to enhance productivity.

Officially opening the 100th edition of the Harare Agricultural Show yesterday, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said there were too many money-related bottle-necks hampering production.

"Financial support for the agricultural sector remains a sore challenge with limited resources being availed as costly agricultural loans.

"The result is that our agricultural commodities are purchased at very low prices, despite the relatively high production costs.

"Thus the need for properly planned agricultural financing still calls on all of us to put our heads together and come up with appropriate strategies and solutions," he said.

The President said farmers increasingly felt abandoned when after harvesting they found the market prices for their produce did not match production and sustenance expenses.

"For cotton farmers, growers of our ‘white gold’, the prices that were being paid for the produce were very discouraging.

"For the long-suffering maize farmers, delayed payments at times mean they have to contend with bank demands for overdue loan payments.

"In the process, some of the farmers succumb to the temptation to sell to unscrupulous lenders or buyers who either pay unprofitable prices or fail to pay at all," President Mugabe said.

He added: "Our challenge is to engineer solutions to the funding impediments and to assist in adding value to farmers’ produce.

"As we celebrate the 100 years of exhibition excellence in our 30th year of Independence, we should ask ourselves if we have produced the quality of farmers we desire."

President Mugabe said Government and the private sector should make the 2010/2011 main cropping season a success.

"We need to overcome the perennial problem of failing to provide inputs on time as we also need to seriously address the limited credit lines from banks and agro-industries plus the high costs of borrowing which often means limited working capital for farmers," he said.

He said while the 2009/2010 agricultural season had such facilities as the US$210 million scheme for seed and fertilisers and the US$55 million Government inputs programme, supply of the necessities remained a challenge.

President Mugabe said few farmers accessed loans from banks resulting in the majority reduced areas of planting.

He said climate change has also affected productivity as farmers were often caught wrong-footed by the weather’s vagaries.

"Accordingly, Government believes that top priority should be given to irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation and development in order to mitigate the impact of climate change.

"While the irrigation master plan shows that we have the potential of developing up to two million hectares of irrigable land in the country, the costly nature of the exercise means the work can only be carried out on a phased basis.

"But a start has to be made sooner rather than later," President Mugabe emphasised.

He added that mechanisation was also key to improving crop yields.

He said despite the mid-season dry spell in the 2009/2010 farming season, there was a lot to celebrate at this year’s agricultural show.

President Mugabe said tobacco sales had already exceeded 110 million kilogrammes, surpassing the 70 million kg envisaged earlier.

He noted that despite the sector’s challenges, cotton production continued to grow while poultry and broiler output had also risen.

President Mugabe said sheep breeding, and the dairy and pork industries had also performed well.

President Mugabe, who is the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show Society patron, said this year’s edition was by far the most engaging as it marked a whole century of exhibition excellence.

"It also should mark the distance we have walked as an independent, majority-ruled country.

"Thank you to all those who have carried the show over the years," he said.

President Mugabe said he was impressed by the standard of exhibits and the air of confidence among participants.

Over 700 exhibitors participated at this year’s event held under the theme "100 Years of Exhibition Excellence".

The show this year runs for ten days rather than the traditional six, with each day marking 10 years of existence.

The show ends today.

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