The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe’s major farming inputs manufacturers have assured growers of adequate inputs during the 2018/19 farming season, insisting they are adequately stocked to meet demand.
In separate interviews, fertiliser and seed producers said they have the capacity to meet demand for the season, allaying fears that the companies could fail to meet demand due to challenges related to securing foreign currency for the importation of raw materials.
On average, the growers use 240 000 tonnes of compound fertilisers and 160 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, but indications are that the demand might decrease due to a spike in input prices in October as well as unpredictable rainfall patterns this farming season.
State of fertiliser supply
In an interview, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturers Association of Zimbabwe chairman and Chemplex chief executive officer, Mr Tapiwa Mashingaidze said despite the slow movement of the commodity, the industry has enough stocks to meet demand.
The value of the bond notes and the Real Time Gross Settlement balances — held by many farmers — was severely eroded following a spike in prices of various commodities, including farming inputs.
“Companies are complaining of low sales, but generally stock is available on the market. However, there has been movement with supplies going towards national agriculture programmes,” he said.
Mr Mashingaidze said the country is facing inflationary pressures but assured the market of fertiliser price stability.
“There were uncertainties, especially in October; but we are beginning to see stability and don’t expect prices to go up.
“As it is now, fertiliser is available although movement is generally slow. But just like any other business in Zimbabwe, we need foreign currency to keep the business running smoothly,” said Mr Mashingaidze.
Largest seed manufacturer — SeedCo Limited also said the company has enough capacity to meet the local market’s seed requirements for this planting season.
Chief executive officer Mr Morgan Nzwere said despite the economic turbulence and uncertainties that come with it, the market is guaranteed of enough supplies for seed in this season at affordable prices.
He said seed is a basic commodity and its availability and affordability is a priority for the company.
“Our capacity to meet demand is not compromised. The seed will be available and has to remain affordable for the customers. On the other hand, the company has to evaluate its capacity to pay the growers due to the inflationary prices that are affecting the economy as a whole,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group’s financial results presentation.
Seed producers are on record saying they have enough maize seed to cater for 1 880 000 hectares, 80 000 hectares of wheat, 85 000 hectares of soyabeans, 28 000 hectares of millet, 250 000 hectares of white sorghum, 3 000 hectares of red sorghum, 13 000 hectares of groundnuts, 50 000 hectares of cowpeas and 450 000 hectares of cotton.
Farmers disturbed by price hike
On the other hand, farmers have bemoaned the October input price increases, saying the increases derailed their plans.
The price of ammonium nitrate and compound D fertilisers, depending on the brand, is between $45 and $51 for 50kg bags while a 10kg pocket of seed is going for between $42 and $57. These prices are too steep for most farmers.
To make matters worse, some suppliers are demanding payments in hard currency, further compounding the farmers’ efforts to retool and purchase essential inputs.
“As farmers, we are prepared. We have been prepared since August but got confronted by price increases in October after we had already done our budgets,” said Federation of Farmers’ Unions chairman Mr Wonder Chabikwa.
To add to the farmers’ woes, forecasts of normal to below normal rainfall were made.
Mr Chabikwa said farmers have been moving towards early maturing varieties as well as small grains to mitigate the effects of a possible drought this season and beyond.
Irrigation key to farming success
Some agronomists have called for the expansion of irrigation facilities as well as the development of rain water harvesting techniques. Last year, the Government launched the Command Water Harvesting programme, which is aimed at transforming the livelihoods of people in communal and farming areas.
Under this programme, there shall be construction of dams and small weirs on rivers to allow for the collection of water during the rainy season for use during the dry periods to ensure all-year crop production.
The completion and commissioning of the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam in Chivi district opened up 25 000 hectares to year-round irrigation with a capacity of 1, 8 million ML and a yield of 364 000 ML of water per hour.
The dam should also provide irrigation water to Lowveld cane plantations, with sugar output expected to grow by 15 percent as a result, as well as creating a vibrant aquaculture project under the Command Fishing project.
The United Nations-led International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFad) has also made calls for Zimbabwe to invest more in irrigation to mitigate against drought and poverty.
According to IFad, over 27 700 poor rural households can benefit from the Small Irrigation Revitalisation Programme, which aims to revitalise 6 100 hectares in 152 existing small-holder irrigation schemes in the semi-arid zones in some parts of the country.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says Zimbabwe has more than 12 000 small to medium inland dams that can also help in irrigation schemes.
As of December 3, 2018, most major dams’ capacities were above 50 percent full, according to statistics from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. The nation could tap into the available natural resource for irrigation purposes.
During the 2015/16 agriculture season, Sub Saharan Africa was plunged into drought as a result of the El Nino weather phenomenon which cut output severely, especially for small scale farmers who are the country’s largest producers of grain and tobacco.