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July 30, 2008

Low producer prices threaten maize farming in Zimbabwe

Low producer prices that Zimbabwe's state-controlled Grain Marketing Board is paying farmers has crippled the viability of maize production, posing a major threat to food security.

Farmers, reeling from the uneconomic price, have gone full throttle into the production of other money-spinning crops at the expense of maize, the country’s staple food, hampering efforts to replenish strategic grain reserves.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wilson Nyabonda said the viability of maize production in the country was non-existent and would be difficult to maintain the food security status of the nation.

"It is of great importance to adequately reward farmers as this reduces the problems of side-marketing and food insecurity concerns," he said.

Mr Nyabonda said that currently with the interbank rate farmers were being paid less than US$2 per tonne and the money was not enough to let farmers continue with production.

"Last year in October Govern-ment announced an import parity price for maize and wheat which is currently US$400/tonne yet the current producer price is not in line with the standing policy of the import parity price. Government should honour that policy if maize production is to increase and we are still to receive communication that the policy has been reversed."

Paying farmers the import parity price would enable them to meet the increasing costs of production.

The strategic grain reserve needs at least 500 000 tonnes of grain. But with the prevailing producer price the GMB would find it difficult to replenish the reserves.

Selling maize to GMB presents advantages to farmers as they get bonuses and back pay, in addition to having a sales and production record that helps them access cheaper inputs timeously.

Mazowe Syndicate chairman and farmer, Mr Garikai Msika said farmers should be given an incentive, a price matching the regional price.

"We are not saying pay us the US$ equivalent but we want a competitive price. It is very difficult to set the cost of production per hectare because of the hyper-inflationary environment, it is unworkable, the costs will not be valid tomorrow," Mr Msika said.

The Herald

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