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June 19, 2008

Mozambique to double spending on agriculture

Mozambique will increase its budget for agriculture to 10 percent of the total state budget from 4 percent over the next three years in order to increase production, a senior official said on June 19.

Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca said Reuters the three year plan, running between 2009 and 2011, was approved by cabinet and aimed to reduce the current grain deficit.

"We are facing external shocks, there are high fuel and food prices. Therefore we have decided to increase agriculture budget. Currently, the ministry gets only 4 percent of the total state budget, this would be increased to 10 percent in the next three years," he said.

The state budget for 2008 has been set at $3.5 billion.

Despite an bigger harvest, Mozambique will still need to import at least 1.25 million tonnes of maize, wheat and rice this year to cover food shortages caused by floods.

The country's annual grain and cereal imports are normally about 500,000 tonnes, comprising mostly wheat and rice, which are not produced locally, rather than maize.

Nhaca told Reuters earlier this year the country expected to increase its grain harvest to 2.6 million tonnes by August despite two cyclones and floods this season.

Agriculture is the third biggest spending ministry after education and health.

"The food production plan, which is part of the national Green Revolution strategy, will call for joint efforts between the government and the private sector, and will be centred on the production of rice, maize, wheat, cassava, and potatoes, in order to guarantee food security," Nhaca said.

Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in Africa and is struggling to find money to rebuild its dilapidated education and health-care system, which was neglected during a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992.

"We want to increase production, rehabilitate the infrastructure such as roads and equip farmers with proper machinery to produce these commodities," Nhaca said.

The agriculture strategy also includes plans for fertilizer and seed imports as well as the development of irrigation systems and the training of rural extension workers.


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