Sharon Chikowore Mashonaland West Bureau
Government has sourced enough inputs for the winter wheat cropping season to cover at least 75 000 hectares, amid reports that over US$400 million was being spent importing three key agro-raw materials that can be produced locally.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos, revealed this during the Mashonaland West Devolution and Business Conference held in Chinhoyi recently.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said the inputs sourced would boost wheat production in Zimbabwe.
He urged farmers to form strong unions to represent their concerns to Government and avoid approaching authorities in their individual capacities.
“This year we have enough inputs to cover 75 000 hectares, (and) if we grow wheat on those hectares, we will have almost 70 percent of our wheat covered to sustain our needs as a country.
“The inputs are there and farmers can go and get them. If you have irrigation facilities go into your farms and produce wheat.”
He lamented the money lost through wheat, milk and soya bean inputs.
“We are losing a lot of money amounting to US$400 million per year from only three things — importing soya bean, milk and wheat. We need to get our act together. We need to produce enough wheat, soya bean and milk so we stop importing,” he said.
Deputy Minister Haritatos also urged farmers to regularise their papers.
“The issue is also typical, we have our Minister of State, we have devolution, and she is in charge. We want you to fast track the process. If you don’t have offer letters, apply for them so that you have access to the inputs facility.
“Give them (applications) to the Minister and she will bring them to us. If everything is above board you will be issued with the offer letters. We want you to invest in your country,” he said.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said Government was ready to engage farmers so that they understand their challenges.
“The problem with farmers today is they are not united. You as farmers have to be organised, use organisations such as the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union.
“You have to be organised because that is how you lobby Government.
“The process of consultation instead of being between farmers’ unions and Government, it is done between individuals and organisations such as the Agricultural Marketing Authority,” he said.
“Without those lobby groups, you are speechless, you are powerless yet you are the most important sector in our country. So empower your farmers’ associations, each and every one of you that are farmers join the associations.
“The associations should come to us and lobby us if you have complaints. There is power in numbers, we will listen.”
Agriculture contributes at least 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s exports while adding significantly to the country’s GDP after mining.
Zimbabwe, according to Deputy Minister Haritatos, has 10 000 dams with a capacity to irrigate two million hectares although the country is currently irrigating about 170 000ha, which is less than 10 percent of that capacity.