Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Farm input schemes blasted

Farm input schemes blasted

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made

By Farai Mabeza

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL input support programmes by government have stifled agricultural productivity, a joint policy brief on smallholder productivity and subsidies produced by two organisations has said.
The Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) and the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) said in their brief that current input support programmes used blanket fertiliser recommendations in determining package sizes, disregarding the fact that the country had different natural regions.
Crop yields, including that for the staple grain, remain too low, with the average for maize around 0,671 tonnes per hectare between 2010 and 2015 and rising to about 1,1 tonnes per hectare in the 2016/2017 season.
“More than 80 percent of the smallholder farmers produce maize but since 2012, data from post-harvest surveys show that only 16 percent or less of maize farmers produce a surplus for sell. Benefits of output subsidies accrue to larger farmers who are able to produce a surplus,” LFSP and IAPRI said.
They said maize surplus generation in Zimbabwe was highly concentrated, with only six to eight percent of farmers responsible for at least 50 percent of all the maize sales to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and other buyers.
Zimbabwe has great potential of becoming a regional bread basket without overburdening the Treasury with ineffective support programmes supporting production and consumption, the organisations said.
Several policy actions offer potential win-win options for balancing the food price dilemma and the two institutions recommended the implementation of smart subsidies.
Adoption of smart subsidies in line with the recommendation from the Zimbabwe Agriculture Investment Plan would, among other things, promote agricultural diversification and private sector-led input distribution systems and job creation.
Poverty rates in Zimbabwe remain stubbornly high despite concerted government efforts to assist rural farmers through the input and output support or subsidies.
The land and agrarian reforms undertaken by the government since 2000 have changed the structure of the agricultural sector by widening the number of farmers in need of capacitation and government support in order to spur agricultural recovery, they pointed out, adding that government had remained committed to helping the poor smallholder farmers and the new class of under-resourced medium and large scale farmers but solutions remained elusive.
Between 2010 and 2016, the country spent $412 million on input subsidies and $706 million on output subsidies through support to the Strategic Grain Reserve compared to $249 million on agricultural research, technical and extension services in the same period.
Although the input support schemes have to some extent contributed to increased production and productivity among the smallholder farmers and in some cases large-scale farmers, they have become a social contract between the government and the people with no clear exit strategy.
LFSP and IAPRI said output subsidies crowded out the private sector.
“The subsidies often displace private spending that would otherwise occur and, in the case of input subsidies, may not be promoting appropriate technologies,” LFSP and IAPRI said.
“There are a lot of leakages and rent-seeking behaviour while unpredictable agricultural policies are a huge problem plaguing the maize marketing system and food security in Zimbabwe. The government also does not have effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for its programmes.”
“Government must avoid policies that crowd out private sector participation, and should instead seek to facilitate market growth, as well as make every effort to leverage private sector investments.
“Therefore, given the sensitivities around subsidies, our recommendations herein take the middle road where we advocate for implementing public-private sector partnership -led smart subsidies with the potential of making Zimbabwe a bread basket again,” LFSP and IAPRI said.

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