Saturday, March 06, 2010

(HERALD) Time to end dependency syndrome

COMMENT - Farmers need a continuous support system - marketing, storage, transportation, information about new crops and prices, insurance, irrigation, credit. Agriculture is an industry, and must be treated as such, especially by those in government who have had little experience with commercial farming. Empty phrases and spychologizing like 'dependency syndrome' are best left far behind. The term 'dependency syndrome' was used by Tendai Biti to excuse de-funding the new farmers and the agricultural sector.

Time to end dependency syndrome

WHILE the injection of US$10 million by the Government towards winter wheat cropping is a fulfilment of some of its obligations to ensure food security, we, however, strongly believe that time is now ripe for farmers to stand on their own feet.

There is nothing wrong, though, in Government introducing subsidies to help farmers but the good gesture only becomes bad when it creates a dependency syndrome that makes farmers even lazy to work.

If the subsidised inputs — seed and fertilizer — are used in production, then surely, barring erratic rainfall, attaining food security would not be a difficult task.

But more often than not, the subsidised inputs have landed on the illegal parallel market where they are sold at exorbitant prices. It is unfortunate that we have turned some market intermediaries into farmers, resulting in the flooding of inputs on the parallel market.

Most farmers are beneficiaries of the Farm Mechanisation Programme that saw many getting an assortment of equipment, such as tractors, combine harvesters, boom sprayers, among others. This means Government has taken care of other critical factors of production.

Farmers had been spending a lot of money hiring farm equipment for tillage, herbiciding and harvesting. Now their major cost factor has shifted from hiring equipment to only buying inputs.

So the huge amount of money they have been using to hire equipment can now go towards buying seed and fertilizer. A lot of saving has been witnessed as farm equipment beneficiaries now only worry about maintenance costs.

In essence farmers are in the business of farming and should thus be responsible for their operations. It is time farmers stopped leaning heavily on the Government for support but started standing on their own feet.

The Government has played a huge part not only in ensuring farmers make money but feed the nation through various support schemes. Farmers have been supported for several seasons now and surely no child can breastfeed forever.

Farmers should start playing ball and show leadership by being able to mobilise their own resources to move winter wheat production in particular and agriculture in general forward.

The support that comes from the Government should be viewed as a bonus for the farmers as they seek other means to sustain their operations. Farming is not different from any other business where businesspeople negotiate lines of financial support from the banks.

Having said this, we however want to commend the Government for remaining sensitive to the plight of wheat farmers by releasing funds at a time we feel farmers should be self-financing.

We remain optimistic that genuine farmers will access the low-cost inputs for the sole purpose of production and not for resale.

It is encouraging that the Government has put in place measures to guard against chancers and other market intermediaries from accessing the inputs by demanding proof of availability of electricity and irrigation water and delivery invoices for the past three seasons.

We hope problems encountered in the past seasons of shortage or lack of inputs on the market, have been tackled. We want to see the seed and fertilizer on the market for farmers with resources to buy.

Preparations for winter cropping in terms of putting together the inputs should start now and the package that the Government has put up for sale at low cost should be available on the market without delay.

Farmers with resources should use them to finance their cropping and leave subsidised inputs to those still struggling.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home