The Utete Land Commission has recommended that the government should adopt a policy of targeted production with the targets being communicated by September at the latest. It said the policy on pre-planting should strictly be observed.
Though the commission advocated the opening up of agricultural marketing with the private sector being allowed to participate, it said market liberalisation must be gradual and cautious.
It said though market liberalisation had removed major distortions created by previous controls and high subsidies associated with marketing boards, it had not improved agricultural growth, exports or reduced poverty.
“The reforms did little to transfer benefits to farmers,” the commission said.” Liberalisation through the gradual reduction and rationalisation, not total elimination, of the role of parastatal agencies, and the development of a regulatory framework for agricultural commodity marketing is therefore a vital and essential factor in the present era in Zimbabwe’s agricultural transformation,” it says.
It says marketing boards should operate in an environment where they facilitate and complement but not constrain private marketing activities under a level playing field.
It adds, though, that for such an environment to function properly, it must be supported by a regulatory framework for quality grades and standards, enforcement of contracts and coordinating domestic and internal markets to improve timing, availability and identity or traceability of Zimbabwean products.
“Market liberalisation without improved access to market information for producers and traders will do little to improve production, availability and trade in agricultural products,” it says.
The commission said direct contracting arrangements between farmers and buyers should be permitted. There was also a need to invest in research of major agricultural commodities such as maize and tobacco.
Research should be undertaken into genetically modified organisms using facilities at universities, the Tobacco Research Board and the Scientific Industrial Research and Development Centre.
The commission said the government should stop the emerging pattern where agro-business or private sector bodies were subleasing land from A2 farmers and paying a percentage of the produce as a lease fee. These companies should also not use funds raised through agri-bonds.
The commission, however, said this should not be confused with contract farming because corporate farming was essential for agricultural growth especially where economies of scale counted such as the development of sugar and timber plantations.