Agriculture minister, Witness Mangwende, is reported to be under pressure from the World Bank which is said to have openly indicated to him that he is being “leaned on” to implement agricultural liberalisation.
Mangwende is reported to have been given until June to effect a series of reforms to effect this. These include the deregulation of maize sales which at present are handled by the Grain Marketing Board.
Observers, however, believe the reforms will be implemented in April to coincide with the start of the 1992 marketing year.
Marketing boards will have a freer hand and enabling acts have already been passed. The Cold Storage Commission, the Cotton Marketing Board, the Grain Marketing Board, the Dairy Marketing Board and the Agricultural Marketing Authority itself have been made more independent and should now be run entirely by their boards with the Minister giving directions on matters of policy and other regulations.
The measures will benefit commercial farmers most as they are the ones who are presently restricted, as for example, farmer-to-farmer sales of some commodities are not permitted.
Sources say Mangwende is not amused and has vowed that he will continue to set the prices of controlled crops instead of leaving this to the boards.
With the country already importing maize from South Africa and the current season not very promising, Mangwende will definitely have to give in because the World Bank is one of the major sponsors of the current economic structural adjustment programme.
This is particularly so since the country, which used to be considered the bread basket of Southern Africa, is now importing its basic staple, and this is not merely because of drought but mainly because of poor planning as the country is importing maize while exporting at the same time to meet its commitments.