WASHINGTON DC —
The 2013-2014 agricultural farming season has set in but some Zimbabwean farmers say their hopes of a bumber harvest have already been dampened by the shortage of fertilizer and the high cost of inputs.
The country is struggling to feed millions of people in drought prone regions and other areas that were once regarded as the nation’s bread basket.
Zimbabwe has been struggling over the past few years to fully prepare for the agricultural season and the 2013-2014 farming season is no exception.
The rains have started falling in some parts of the country but some small-scale and communal farmers say they are failing to access inputs under the $160 million state-sponsored agricultural scheme.
Last year, farming inputs such as maize seed and fertilizer that were distributed under the financially-troubled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) run by the government, were allegedly looted by some politicians said to be linked to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
Farmers say the situation is also chaotic this year as compound d fertilizer, used in the early stages of planting, is not readily available. Mashonaland West farmer, Peter Muza, says compound d fertilizer cannot be found in most shops while maize seed is too expensive.
According to Muza, some state agricultural agencies have informed farmers that the government is struggling to import compound d fertilizer from china.
Some farmers in mashonaland central’s Mazowe district, Marange in Manicaland, and some parts of Matabeleland also say they cannot access compound d fertilizer.
One of them, Chisidzo Mutungwarungwa of Marange, says only top dressing fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, is available in most retail outlets but farmers will struggle to raise money to buy it due to the scarce American dollar.
Jack Murehwa, chief executive officer of Sable Chemicals – major producers of ammoninum nitrate – says farmers with cash can buy it from various suppliers.
Murehwa says Zimbabwean farmers need a lot of the top-dressing fertilizer per agricultural season.
But farmer Muza says this product is also not readily available in retail outlets.
Critics like Everson Ndlovu, an agriculturalist and development expert, say Zimbabwe should fully prepare for the farming season to curb widespread hunger in most rural areas.
Government officials claim that the country’s farming input scheme is going on well contrary to reports that it is in disarray.
Zimbabwe needs 1,2 million metric tonnes of the staple food, maize, per year and at least 500,000 tonnes in strategic reserves to avert hunger.
The country’s silos are currently empty, a situation that has forced Zimbabwe to import maize from neighbouring Zambia.
The world food programme estimates that at least 2 million people will need food aid at the peak of the hunger season next year.
With the farming season almost in disarray due to shortage of crucial agricultural inputs, there is little hope that the nation of over 12 million people will produce enough food in the current agricultural season.