Saturday, 29 August 2020

NO MORE FOOD IMPORTS : ED


THE time has come for Zimbabwe to say goodbye to food imports, with the Government ready to support farmers through farm mechanisation, modernisation and provision of reliable energy supplies to ensure maximum production, productivity and profitability, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.

Speaking after visiting the thriving Kunatsa Estates, owned by Mr Doug Munatsi of Bindura District, the President said through dedication, hard work and national unity, Zimbabwe would achieve food security in the next three to four years.

Zimbabwe, with its vast arable land and with dams and weirs to support irrigation, should not find itself importing food from its regional neighbours.

“Going forward, there must be a corresponding relationship between one’s level of mechanisation and ultimate production. Those who are mechanised must produce to their level, while those with draught power and those without, must equally work hard according to their capabilities. As a nation, we have come to a point where we must say bye-bye to food imports,” he said. 

The President was accompanied by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, Home Affairs and National Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe and Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Mashonaland Central Senator Monicah Mavhunga and war veterans leaders in the province.

The President on Wednesday launched the US$8,2 billion agriculture and food systems transformation strategy which is derived from the agriculture recovery plan and the livestock growth plan, and which is expected to be key towards achieving vision 2030 to become an upper middle economy.

He now wants every piece of agricultural land that belongs to the State to be put to use to ensure productivity.

“The agriculture and food systems transformation strategy provides a campus for agriculture in line with our national Vision 2030 and seeks to create an enabling agriculture policy environment for agriculture investment, agriculture innovation and technology, research and development, sector coordination, and effective service delivery. 

“The agriculture recovery plan and the livestock growth plan represent specific crop and livestock development projects and programmes, which are expected to transform agriculture into a US$8,2 billion agriculture economy by 2025, with multiplier effects across the whole economy,” the President said.

“Rest assured that my administration will continue to support farmers as we improve agriculture productivity towards a prosperous, diverse, sustainable and competitive agriculture sector.

“I, therefore, challenge farmers to fully exploit the abundant land and water bodies to produce strategic agriculture products to meet our national demand and penetrate the global value chains.

“Today I am delighted to see evidence of practical hard work, here at Kunatsa Estate.”

The estate is harvesting 350ha of wheat and 150ha of barley grown under irrigation this winter.

“True to expectations of the agriculture recovery plan, the production levels, dedication and commitment here are a reflection of what is possible. The mixed farming here at Kunatsa Estate, which includes cropping, dairy, beef and poultry as well as honey production, has resulted in the creation of employment and empowerment opportunities for the local communities,” the President said. 

The multiple agriculture model at the farm, the President said, is in line with the Government quest to have large-scale farms drive agricultural revival through mixed cropping and livestock enterprises.

“The establishment of value addition and agro-processing facilities within our farms and farming communities are also being promoted. It is therefore my hope that agriculture ventures such as this one will become the epicentre of rural industry systems through the value addition of various farming products.”

With the weather forecast for the next agricultural season favourable, the President said farmers should fully prepare for the next season so as to achieve maximum yields, bearing in mind the need to stock up surplus for a fall back during lean seasons.

Alongside maize, wheat, being produced mainly in Mashonaland Central, East and West, is one of the strategic crops in the country with an annual requirement of about 400 000 tonnes.

However, over the years the country has relied heavily on imports as local production levels have been low.

Farmers like Mr Munatsi have, however, heeded the Government’s call to put shoulder to the wheel and pursue production targets that have been given to every province.

In support of farmers, who are key in ensuring the transformation of the vital agriculture sector, the President said Government will, “through the Ministry of Energy and Power Development do all that is possible to facilitate reliable fuel and power supplies to the agriculture sector”.

“Meanwhile, we have set up a Special Agricultural Equipment Facility at Agribank to help increase the combine harvesting as well as modernise our agriculture and increase access to latest harvesting technologies.” 

To ensure maximum productivity and mechanisation, the Government has signed a multi-million-dollar facility with agricultural equipment giant John Deere on top of a deal with Belarus that will see combine harvesters being deployed to wheat clusters before harvesting.

“In view of the financing gaps in the agriculture sector, Government has transformed the business architecture of Agribank, turning it into a land bank for all farmers. The bank will provide comprehensive financal and technical services to farmers.

“The intervention further seeks to strengthen the development of rural industry systems, avail working capital, broaden farm mechanisation and facilitate the improvement of production and increased exports.

“I thus exhort all beneficiaries of the land reform programme and the farming community in general to ensure responsible utilisation of land.

The President said the provision of social amenities, such as schools and hospitals, should go hand in glove with developments in the mining and agriculture sector with stakeholders in the social service sector having to work with the social services structure that is chaired by Vice President Kembo Mohadi to provide the crucial services.

In pursuit of Vision 2030, agriculture, tourism and mining are expected to contribute towards the realisation of a US$25 billion economy by 2025.

Apart from the US$8,2 billion agriculture recovery and livestock growth strategy, Zimbabwe is also pursuing a US$5 billion tourism strategy along with the mining industry strategy which is expected to contribute US$12 billion, with signs on the ground showing that this could be achieved well before 2025.

Yesterday’s occasion, where the President toured rolling green fields of wheat and barley, was also attended by other anchor farmers who are expected to take the lead in transforming agriculture. Herald

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