Dependency syndrome

Zimbabweans are poor farmers, says minister

Financial Gazette

28 September 2017


Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Paddy Zhanda.

DEPUTY Agriculture Minister, Paddy Zhanda, says most people who benefited from the country’s land reform programme are not contributing to the country’s food security because they are not hands-on farmers.

The new farmers, he said, also lacked the technical know-how required to improve production.

Speaking to farm industry officials who gathered in Harare last week for the validation of the report done by the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC) on the country’s beef industry, Zhanda said Zimbabwean farmers should stop taking farming as a hobby, but instead treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Some of the participants complained that the cost of inputs was very high, making the producer price for maize of $390 per tonne being offered by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) uneconomical.

Other farmers said this producer price made stock feed prices high for the country’s livestock sector.

Zhanda accused the farmers of “suffering from a dependency syndrome’’, demanding endless government subsidies. “You should know that there is nothing that you get for free from the government that the government does not get for free from someone else. Why do we want things for free when we are in business? That shows our mentality… that we are still backward. Nowhere else in Africa have people been presented with the opportunity to participate in the mainstream of the economy than Zimbabweans,” he said.

The deputy minister said farmers were not investing in farming operations and therefore could not expect good harvests. He said on average it takes an investment of $1 400 from tilling the land right to harvesting for a farmer to realise a minimum maize harvest of 10 tonnes per hectare, with some farmers even realising yields of as high as 15 to 18 tonnes. He said the GMB price of $390 per tonne gave a farmer who invested $1 400 per hectare to produce 10 tonnes of maize a minimum profit of $2 500 per hectare.

“Where else can you get such a return? Maize farmers in this country are making a lot of money… if you are a farmer and you can’t make money from maize, you will not make money out of anything,” he said. He said it was not the cost of production or the producer price that was making farming unviable but poor yields.

He said at the national average yield of 0,85 tonnes per hectare, it was not surprising that farmers were finding farming unviable. “It is poor farming methods… including on my own farm.

Zimbabweans are bad users of land; we are bad users of water… especially when you are not there.”

He said most farmers did not do soil tests in order to determine the soil’s requirements for it to give maximum production, opting instead to gamble with seeds and fertilisers. Zhanda said this problem was prevalent in all sectors of the agricultural sector, where farmers strangely expected maximum returns on minimum investment.