Made turned down plan improve inputs - Gasela

Zimbabwe is currently facing a seed and input crisis because Agriculture Minister Joseph Made rejected recommendations made by farmers and Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Rural Resources, Water Development and Resettlement.

Movement for Democratic Change shadow minister for Agriculture, Renson Gasela, who is also a member of the committee, said farmers had recommended that the government should have an agricultural plan for the next season by January or February.

The committee, which produced its report in December last year, had recommended that the Minister of Agriculture should advise Parliament about the state of preparations for the next season by March.

Gasela said when the report was presented to Parliament, Made had bluntly told the committee that he did not take instructions from anyone.

The lands committee is dominated by ZANU-PF MPs and is chaired by Zhombe Member of Parliament Daniel Ncube.

Comment could not be obtained from Made.

While Gasela said there was total chaos in the seed and input sector, agro-economist Jonathan Kadzura said the situation was much better this year. He said there had been total chaos in the past two seasons because of the ongoing land reform programme but things had stabilised.

"We are now better organised," Kadzura said. "Demand for seed maize has been overwhelming. In the past we used only 35 000 tonnes of seed maize. We now require 80 000 tonnes. This is an expanded requirement because of the land reform programme."

Kadzura said 60 000 tonnes of seed was already in the country. There was therefore a shortfall of only about 20 000 tonnes.

Gasela said national requirement was about 60 000 tonnes but the country only had just over 20 000 tonnes.

Kadzura also argued that the inputs were not late because the season only started in November.

Seed companies said they were going to import 31 000 tonnes of seed maize from the region. They said only 6 900 tonnes had already been released to the market.

Some reports in the media have said the country requires up to 200 000 tonnes of seed.

Kadzura said 80 000 tonnes was enough as only 1.2 million hectares was going to be put under maize. Some officials have put the size of the land to be put under maize at four million hectares.

"Why should we put all that land under maize when we were already producing a surplus with 35 000 tonnes of seed?" Kadzura asked.

He also disputed reports that some of the wheat crop could have been wasted because of the delay in harvesting the current wheat crop which could have been affected by the early rains.

He said the harvesting plan was coordinated by the Grain Marketing Board and all those who owned combined harvesters entered into a contract with the GMB as early as May.

Gasela differed. "There is a potential disaster in this year's wheat crop," he said. "There was a lot of rain in and around Harare which is the main wheat growing area. This has disrupted harvesting and even though the rains have stopped, the farmers have to wait until the ground dries up because harvesters cannot go in while the ground is still wet."

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