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Ambassador said Made is still burying his head in the sand

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGhee said Agriculture Minister Joseph Made was still burying his head in the sand in terms of agricultural production after his crop forecasts differed vastly with those of the US Agency for International Development.

Made had forecast that Zimbabwe would produce about 1.2 million tonnes of maize in the 2009 agricultural year but USAID said it would only produce 500 000 tonnes.

McGhee said though Made was trying to boost production by smallholder farmers, the “elephant in the room” was the challenge of reviving high-output, surplus-generating commercial agriculture by farmers of any race.

“Until the inclusive government addresses this admittedly delicate issue, food security will remain precarious and highly weather dependent, and the agricultural sector will continue to drain rather than fill Zimbabwe’s current account,” he said.

 

 Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE479, ZIM AG MINISTER OVERESTIMATES AGRICULTURAL

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE479

2009-06-09 08:58

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4011

PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0479/01 1600858

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

P 090858Z JUN 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4588

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2308

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2882

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3001

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2264

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2631

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3049

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5490

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2173

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000479

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

AF/EPS FOR ANN BREITER

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND J. HARMON

TREASURY FOR D. PETERS

COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PLEASE PASS TO N. LUSANE AND T. DAGNE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: EAGR ECON PGOV XA ZI

SUBJECT: ZIM AG MINISTER OVERESTIMATES AGRICULTURAL

PRODUCTION

 

REF: HARARE 456

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) In a meeting with CODEL Payne and Ambassador McGee

on May 30, Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made (ZANU-PF)

estimated the maize shortfall and level of food insecurity in

2009/10. He conceded the outlook was poor for the winter

wheat crop, and made a pitch for credit facilities for

smallholders and for recapitalization of the domstic

fertilizer industry. USDA’s latest production figures for

Zimbabwe are well below Made’s. Until the new government

addresses the delicate issue of reviving commercial

agriculture regardless of the race of the commercial farmer,

food security will remain precarious and highly weather

dependent, and the agricultural sector will continue to drain

rather than fill ZimbQwe’s current account. END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————

Good Rains, Yet Maize Shortfall Once Again

——————————————

 

2. (SBU) In a meeting with CODEL Payne and Ambassador McGee

at the Ministry of Agriculture on May 30, Minister Joseph

Made (ZANU-PF), together with four other Ministry officials,

addressed a range of issues affecting agricultural

production. Made said this year’s summer rains had been

good, but there would still be a shortfall in maize for human

consumption of 600,000-700,000 MT. He opined that food

availability at the household level would be “reasonable”

until November or December 2009.

 

—————————-

Credit Crunch Stymies Sector

—————————-

 

3. (SBU) Made conceded that Zimbabwe was behind schedule in

planting the winter wheat crop. He said lack of credit had

prevented farmers from getting fertilizer and purchasing

seed. Adequate seed had been available, he maintained, but

at prohibitive prices. Looking toward the next summer maize

crop, Made estimated that Zimbabwe’s smallholders would

produce 40-45 percent of the crop, but 300,000 of the 960,000

farming households would not have adequate inputs to plant

maize. The Minister made the case that if more credit were

available to small and medium-sized farmers, food security

would improve. Specifically, he asked for more food-for-work

programs rather than direct food assistance.

 

4. (SBU) On fertilizer, Made reported that the domestic

fertilizer industry could produce half to two-thirds of the

nation’s requirement if additional credit were made available

to repair or replace machinery that is now 40 to 50 years

old. Made said that if fertilizer plants were recapitalized,

Zimbabwe could produce its entire annual requirement of 600

MT fertilizer domestically.

 

——————–

USDA Crop Assessment

——————–

Q——————–

 

HARARE 00000479 002 OF 002

 

 

 

5. (SBU) Made’s estimates of the 2008/09 maize crop are–no

surprise–on the high side. The government’s Agricultural

Technical and Extension Services agency (AGRITEX) estimated

that 1,521,000 ha of maize were planted at a yield of 0.82

MT/ha (three times higher yield than its yield estimate in

2007/2008), for a total crop of over 1.2 million MT. USDA’s

2009 Zimbabwe Crop Assessment, which utilizes satellite

imagery and field work, suggests that 1,144,000 ha were

planted and yield was 0.44 tons/ha for a total crop of about

a half million metric tons. The USDA report, released on

June 2, took into account the acute shortages of seed,

fertilizer and fuel, along with late planting. (NOTE: For

comparison sake, in the 1990s, commercial farmers strove to

belong to the celebrated and now defunct “Ten Tonne Club” of

maize farmers who grew 10 MT/ha. END NOTE.) Additionally,

Made’s assertion of “reasonable” food availability until

November or December is not applicable to the population as a

whole; there are pockets of vulnerability and some households

will require food assistance as early as three months from

now, with the numbers increasing thereafter. On winter wheat

estimates, the Ministry of Agriculture revealed at a

technical meeting on June 4 that only 4,900 ha of wheat had

been planted to date. Wheat planting should have come to an

end by May 10 for best yields.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

6. (SBU) The meeting with Made was cordial. He accompanied

the delegation and Ambassador McGee to the State House

meeting with President Mugabe (reftel). He chatted

nostalgically with econoff about his years of study at the

University of Wisconsin, and re-appeared the next day on a

Sunday afternoon to bid the CODEL farewell at the airport.

As warm and welcoming as he was, however, on agricultural

production and the way forward with agriculture his head is

still in the sand. Credit facilities for smallholder growers

certainly have the potential to improve production, and there

is no doubt that Zimbabwe’s fertilizer companies are

desperate for re-capitalization. But the elephant in the

room is the challenge of reviving high-output,

surplus-generating commercial agriculture by farmers of any

race. Until the inclusive government addresses this

admittedly delicate issue, food security will remain

precarious and highly weather dependent, and the agricultural

sector will continue to drain rather than fill Zimbabwe’s

current account. END COMMENT.

 

7. (U) NOTE: This cable has not been cleared by Congressman

Payne. END NOTE.

 

MCGEE

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