Farmer’s unions call for review of maize producer price to $800/t

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LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

MAIZE farmers want government to more than double the producer price to $800 per tonne in the face of rising farm input prices and viability challenges that continue to affect the farming business.

The producer price is currently pegged at $390 per tonne.The development comes at a time when inputs prices have increased and government’s import substitution programme known as Command Agriculture Scheme has failed to support most farmers with inputs this season.It also comes ahead of the marketing season in April.

The failure by government to support most farmers under the programme means more companies will buy maize directly from farmers resulting in government not getting enough maize for strategic grain reserves.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa told Business Times that government should increase maize producers’ price to cushion farmers to continue with their activities given the current economic hardships.

“Previously, we usually wait for government to announce maize producers’ price but due to the current economic challenges that are threatening the viability of the agriculture sector, we are asking the authorities to peg maize producers’ price to $800/ tonne in order to continue with the farming business. Anything below that amount is a sheer waste of time and very few will deliver to Grain Marketing Board,” Chabikwa said.

“Farmers’ situation is further worsened by erratic rainfall patterns that have hampered the 2018/2019 summer cropping preparations and poor distribution patterns under the Command scheme where some farmers only got seed. Government should work around the clock to ensure fertiliser situation is addressed to salvage an already bad season.” He said the $800 per tonne price was the starting point with farmers expecting close to $1000 per tonne.

The agro- processing companies are well aware that buying maize at $800 per tonne is cheaper than buying for $280 per tonne in United States dollars from Brazil. National Foods and Pro feeds among other companies which used to buy directly from farmers are likely to purchase again at that price.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakariya said government has to increase maize producers’ prices so that farmers stay in business. “Input prices have to be commensurate with producer prices,” he said.

“If the price of cost of farming is to be allowed to be where it is now, as farmers we are pushing for a review of the producer price so as to accommodate the new economic challenges. “If these prices are not reined in, farmers will downsize their production because of unaffordable costs of inputs. This will obviously affect production.

“There is, therefore, a need for a social contract between government, business and consumers. Otherwise as farmers we will push for a review of producer price and this will have an effect on taxpayers,” Zakariya said.

Maize is Zimbabwe’s staple grain that traditionally impacts the country’s economy given its skewed influence in determining inflation rates of the consumer price index (CPI) that determines the average rise in the cost of living.

In the 2018/19 season, however, the dry spell and fall armyworm is estimated to cut maize production by 40 percent. Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said government will engage all stakeholders to determine maize producers’ price.

He said the agreed producers’ price will be notified to all farmers. Zimbabwe consumes 1,8 million tonnes of maize annually