Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
THE prices of farming inputs have gone haywire, taking the gloss off the preparations for the summer farming season.
A survey conducted by The Manica Post this week established that prices of fertilisers, seed maize, sorghum, chemicals, diesel and tillage services have shot through the roof, thereby leaving many farmers in a quandary.
Early this week, wholesale and retail prices for seed maize were hovering between $9 487,50 and $11 068 for 25kg of long season varieties; $8 222 and $8 500 for the mid-season varieties, while short season varieties were pegged between $6 325 and $6 600 per 25kg.
The long season varieties (10kg) prices were pegged at $3 795. A 5kg pack was pegged at $1 897, while a 2kg pack was going for $759.
A 10kg pack of mid-season variety was going for $3 289, while 5kg cost $1 644 and $657 for 2kg.
Sorghum was priced at $4 537 per 25kg, $1 815 for 10kg and $907 for 5kg.
A 25kg packet of soya beans was going for $5 500.
The pricing regime might have a detrimental impact on resource-poor communal and smallholder farmers who are credited for producing the bulk of maize in the country.
Farmers’ organisations have already raised a red flag, arguing that the situation needs to be addressed urgently.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union Trust president, Mr Victor Mariranyika, said the input prices might push most farmers out of business.
“The inputs prices are far beyond many farmers’ reach.
“To make matters worse, the prices are changing every week, thereby making it difficult for the farmers to plan.
“It is even worse for tobacco farmers who sold their crop with 50 percent of their money availed at the 1:25 exchange rate. Most farmers are not accessing their payments on time, thereby exacerbating the situation,” said Mr Mariranyika.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director, Mr Paul Zakaria echoed the same sentiments.
“These are runaway prices, and even if you convert them to the US dollar, you will still discover that they are making super profits. The 2020/21 season will be very difficult for farmers to go back to the fields if this is not addressed,” said Mr Zakaria.
“Businesses are indexing prices of farming inputs on the black market rate. The four-tier prices for cash, mobile money, swipe and the USD is not sustainable. No farmer will make profits under these circumstances.
“Last season, the bulk of the produce was under the Command Agriculture programme as very few farmers could sponsor their own production.
“This coming season it might be even worse,” said Mr Zakaria.
He encouraged authorities to ensure that the distribution of inputs under the Presidential and Command Agriculture schemes will be done on time.
“Timing is very important. They must be distributed ahead of time and in adequate quantities,” said Mr Zakaria.
However, he encouraged farmers to work towards being self-sufficient, adding that where necessary, farmers should even borrow from banks.
“It should never be Government’s responsibility to do everything for farmers, we should be moving towards self-sufficiency. Farmers should be able to provide resources for their own tillage, inputs, labour and chemicals. We need to reduce the burden on Government.
“Government should focus on provision of infrastructure and creating an enabling environment for our markets while farmers do the rest,” said Mr Zakaria.