The report of the Presidential Land Review Commission established to look into the implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme may have come a little too late as it had far reaching implications on the agricultural industry in the country.
Though most people had expected the committee, chaired by former secretary to the cabinet Charles Utete, to come up with a comprehensive list of politicians with more than one farm, the report was silent on this subject only saying that some of those who had more than one farm had started surrendering the farms.
A complete list would be published by the appropriate authority. It also made it clear that the Buka report would not be made public.
But though a lot of people who were looking forward to a naming of chefs were disappointed, the Utete report made several recommendations that could turn around the country’s agricultural industry, if some of the burning issues such as multiple ownership are solved.
The report, for example, called on farmers to speak with one voice. It said the present farming organisations should move away from their old structures which were based on racial and sectoral lines, and which have been discredited because of their poor performance, in the case of the African farmers unions, and their appetite for misrepresenting national policy issues, in the case of the Commercial Farmers Union.
It says the new union should be more professional and commodity-oriented. It should be economically viable, self-sustaining, transparent and responsive to the needs of all farmers.
The report also dwelt on the need for title to the new farmers because it was one of the requirements for obtaining loans from financial institutions. It says the Grain Marketing Board should be streamlined to focus on strategic grain reserves and the export of grain. It should not be involved in the trading and milling of grain and the distribution of inputs.
The committee says there should be competition in the marketing of grain with organisations like the Zimbabwe Commodity Exchange (ZIMACE) being allowed to come back. The GMB should defend a floor price for producers and a ceiling price for consumers using buffer stocks. This price should be calculated to lie somewhere between a cost of production-based price, an import/export parity price and an open market price.
The committee also called for the introduction of an Agricultural Marketing Council (AMC). Unlike the previous Agricultural Marketing Authority which dealt mainly with the control of marketing boards, the AMC would have a broader public and private sector driven mandate of market promotion and development.
It would also handle product traceability, advice on pricing, market systems, contract farming and trade issues. It would be constituted of various commodity councils, government and traders and would be funded through marketing and export levies.