The Sunday News
WHILE the economy is self-correcting and trying to find an equilibrium as economists tell us, it is important for the Government to prioritise agricultural production in its intervention.
It is no secret that as the economy is frantically trying to find an equilibrium, it is also taking a serious strain and the pain to the general populace is excruciating, as agro-inputs and agro-chemicals have spiralled out of reach, making any production enterprise unviable.
To make matters worse, the inputs have not only gone up but are also unavailable in most cases. A bag of growers mash for broilers is now hovering around $80 from $32, pen fattening meal is up from $13 to above $25 and is also unavailable in most shops.
A colleague with a crocodile farm in Binga complained that crocodile concentrate prices have jumped from around $60 a bag to $300 and not available.
It is a public secret that our economy is agro-based which means one of the major economic drivers is agricultural production.
Therefore it is a no brainer that any effort that seeks to revive and rejuvenate our economy should among other areas focus on supporting agricultural production.
While fuel procurement and supply is important and critical in driving the wheels of a country I also feel this is a sector which makes Government take a huge foreign currency strain supporting a by and large non-productive sector.
Put simply we are spending huge amounts of scarce forex procuring fuel which is largely consumed by an idle citizenship driving around in cars that are imported in foreign currency.
The Government is buying fuel in forex to sell to citizens in local currency. Isn’t this what they call a vicious circle? Granted, we cannot all be producers of export commodities but simplified logic dictates that fuel will all be strategic in driving this nation literally and figuratively when a good portion of it supports productive sectors of the economy that can earn the country foreign currency or alternatively increase local production of some of the commodities that the country is importing.
It is against this background that this pen motivates for serious support for the agricultural sector especially as we learn of availability of some draw down facilities.
Let’s draw down the money and invest it in enhancing agricultural production so as to stimulate our economy.
Agricultural support in this instance may mean subsidies provided to agro input producers and suppliers so that these become available at affordable prices and farmers can now go to the fields.
At the current cost of agro inputs and their unavailability we may have one of the worst production seasons also aggravated by a looming El Nino phenomenon.
I may not be able to think and proffer ideas on the nature of support that should be provided to the agricultural sector but honestly the beginning of wisdom in this economic revival effort is the acceptance of agricultural production as a key economic driver in this country. With the price increases in commercial feeds this is what will happen especially in the livestock sector.
Eggs will become scarce because farmers can’t afford and can’t get layers mash, milk which we are producing in short supply will become even less available as farmers struggle to get or pay for dairy meal.
Hence this loud call to make sure our farmer is supported so that we can continue to have food on the shelves and tables!
While I acknowledge that the Government is also seized with other equally important sectors such as health, I wish to point out the importance of agricultural production in extricating this economy from the doldrums and the support thereof required.
Let’s support the farmers to produce and half of our problems will go away. In this effort one question which we may need to answer is how we rally our farmers to produce. Simply put, how do we ensure that no land is left lying idle when the nation needs to be fed?
Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo. Feedback [email protected]/ cell 07721851275.