PHI Commodities – a subsidiary of National Foods Limited – has said it will fund over 20 000 hectares of both maize and wheat under contract farming during the 2019/2020 summer cropping season.
This comes as commercial banks are also chipping in with funding to support farmers under contract farming schemes with a view to boost production of staple grains.
CBZ Bank alone has already reportedly signed up about 160 000 hectares to be put under maize and soya bean production.
The Herald Finance & Business caught up with PHI Commodities operations director Graeme Murdoch, who is also National Wheat Contract Farming (NWC) chairman, who said the private firms were geared to support agriculture.
“I believe that the anchor Smart Agriculture programme being administered by the Government is going well and that the Presidential Input Scheme input distribution programme is also on track.
“CBZ has signed up approximately 160 000 hectares of both maize and soya. Commercial contractors are targeting about 10 000 hectares of maize and 10, 000 hectares of soya beans,” said Mr Murdoch.
The Government seeks to boost the national grain reserves as it pivots towards the attainment national food security and eventually regains regional (Sadc) food basket status.
With climate change dynamics and weather patterns Zimbabwe had struggled to meet demand for agricultural produce, mainly grain.
This compelled the creation of measures to boost agricultural productivity and to reduce dependence on imports.
The country had been importing maize from neighbouring countries to cover gaps left by local produce and this weighed heavily on government coffers, which fell prey to many priorities.
This year alone, Government announced it would import at least 800 000 tonnes of cereals to augment what local farmers produced.
The country requires over two millions tonnes to cereals to cater for both human and livestock consumption.
As an import substitution measure the government on its part initiated Command Agriculture that has been yielding positive results and only to be disrupted by drought experienced last farming season.
To complement the traditional command agriculture system, the government adopted the smart agriculture concept to incorporate private sector contribution into the funding matrix.
With the new concept the private sector will have to strive to match or surpass government efforts in supporting farmers with funds, inputs and other technical services.
The private sector has readily welcomed the cause to enhance agricultural productivity in line with the Smart Agriculture concept with companies and banks devising strategies to assist contract farmers in the 2019/2020 summer cropping season.
Already the Government has made remarkable strides in as far as preparations for this season’s command agriculture projects are concerned with the distribution of Presidential inputs having commenced in October. These are expected to benefit over 300 000 households.
Under Command Agriculture, the Government expects to put 210 000 hectares under maize production and 30 000 hectares under soya bean production.
Mr Murdoch expressed satisfaction with preparations made so far maintaining that what is left is mere hope for optimum rains for the realisation of projected yields.
“There has been issues with liquidity and the cost of inputs having escalated but preparations for the new season appear on track. We must now hope for a favourable rain season,” he added.
Already, weather expects from Southern Africa met in Angola for the 23rd Southern African Regional Climate Forum (SARCOF-23) where they developed a regional consensus climate update forecast for the 2019/20 agricultural season and predicted normal rains for the three-month period to December 2019.–herald.co.zw