GOVERNMENT would have to increase the agriculture industry’s contribution to the economy as the sector has almost achieved the US$8,2 billion economy target in one season, spurred by the bumper harvest realised in the 2020/2021 farming period.
Zimbabwe was positioned to beat the US$8,2 billion agriculture economy by 2025 following the launch of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year.
The agrarian transformation plan of action was drawn from the Agriculture Recovery and Livestock Growth plans, which outlines specific key projects that include the provision of inputs to both vulnerable and smallholder farmers, fostering market links, climate-proofing all agriculture support programmes, among others.
However, the sector has quickly made a huge jump in productive capacity – sharply narrowing the target achievement timespan, which shows its huge potential, said Dr Anxious Masuka, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development in a recent address to business leaders in Victoria Falls.
“We have now moved to an US$8.2 billion industry, which we had hoped to achieve in five years but attained it in one season,” said the minister.
His sentiments come as grain deliveries continue to flood the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), where farmers have so far delivered more than one million metric tonnes of maize, wheat, traditional grans and soya beans. Treasury has since revised projected agriculture sector growth to about 34 percent this year, with the 2021/2022 season also promising to be good, as indicated by positive rainfall projections.
Concurring with Dr Masuka, Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) board chairperson, Mr Ivan Craig, said there was a need to set a new target for the agricultural sector under the National Development Strategy (NDS1).
“The country has done well in realising the 2021-2025 target under the agricultural sector. We are in 2021 and we are on US$7,8 billion already, we still have four years to achieve the US$8,2 billion,” said Mr Craig while addressing stakeholders at the recent Matabeleland South Agricultural Show in Gwanda.
“With the progress that has been made so far it means by the time we get to 2025 we would have achieved far much more than the US$8,2 billion, which is our target at the moment.
“With the momentum we are moving with as the agricultural sector we need a different target because US$8,2 billion is now water under the bridge.
“We are looking forward to a more challenging target. At this pace the country will soon become the breadbasket of Africa.”
Zimbabwe is also a top producer of tobacco in Africa, and generates close to US$1 billion from its trade. Experts say more opportunities abound for the sector through unlocking the untapped livestock potential and agro-processing value addition downstream industries.
Under NDS1, the country has set out a comprehensive roadmap anchored on revitalising the agriculture sector for the period running up to the year 2030 in which Zimbabwe expects to realise an upper middle-income status.
The interventions are meant to help increase the country’s food self-sufficiency from the current 45 percent to 100 percent, thereby reduce reliance on imports as Government seeks to make Zimbabwe the breadbasket for Africa again.
In this regard, Mr Craig attributed the major contributors achieved by the sector to increased Government efforts to capacitate farmers through programmes such as Intwasa/Pfumvudza, which have seen farmers receive timely assistance like inputs.
He also said the commodity producer prices set by the Government through GMB have also motivated farmers to produce more while enhanced farmer technical training sessions have added impetus.
“Vision 2030 is possible as exhibited in the running of programmes such as Matabeleland South Agricultural Show. I’m so impressed with the exhibits I have seen and this gives us confidence that the Vision 2030 is attainable. If we maintain this momentum, we will attain this vision before 2030,” said Mr Craig.
While the Government is seized with rolling out various programmes to address challenges being faced by farmers, tertiary institutions have come on board with a number of innovations to manufacture fertilisers using local raw materials in order to reduce costs incurred by farmers when purchasing fertilisers. The ongoing power generation projects are also expected to further enhance agriculture operations and reverse usual disruptions mainly incurred at irrigation schemes.
“Let us also continue to take advantage of the various programmes and interventions that our Government [puts in place] from time to time,” said Mr Craig.