Sanctions and their impact on agriculture

23 Oct, 2022 - 00:10 0 Views
Sanctions and their impact on agriculture

The Sunday News

Rutendo Nyeve, Sunday News Reporter

ZIMBABWE is witnessing a steady recovery in the agriculture sector which remains the backbone of the country’s economy after years of challenges under the painful pressure of illegal economic sanctions.

The sector used to provide employment and income to over 60 percent of the population, supplying 60 percent of raw materials required by the manufacturing sector and contributing 40 percent of the total export earnings, however, the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West saw the once vibrant sector facing challenges.

The coming in of the Second Republic saw the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remodelled to accommodate International Trade with a diplomatic mandate to improve relations and international trade. The ministry has said sanctions have brought about a myriad of challenges to the agriculture sector.

“Specifically, they have made it extremely difficult to access agriculture lines of credit and attract investment. This resulted in lack of development, rehabilitation, modernisation and deterioration of production and marketing infrastructure, ultimately reducing productivity and access to markets. 

Mr Obert Chinhamo

“The sanctions affected the livelihood of households owing to lower agricultural yields and this derailed Zimbabwe’s quest to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) against poverty and hunger. In essence, these unjustified and illegal sanctions have violated basic human rights by directly perpetuating hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe and working against the SDGs,” reads the report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The illegal sanctions descended heavily on agriculture infrastructure which saw utilities drastically declining.

“The number of functional tractors declined from 14 000 before sanctions to 6 000 against a national requirement of 40 000 units. The combined capacity declined from 300 units to 130 functional units against a national requirement of 400 units. There is a shortage of cold storage infrastructure around the country. The state-of-the-art packing houses, which are required to facilitate exports to European markets are also limited.

“Functional irrigation schemes also declined from 275 000 hectares to less than 206 000 hectares due to lack of repair and maintenance, rehabilitation and modernisation. Zimbabwe has potential to irrigate up to two million hectares. However, the lack of Foreign Direct Investment has made Zimbabwe unable to develop this irrigation potential utilising existing water bodies, underground water and trans-boundary water bodies such as Zambezi River and Limpopo River which can make a significant contribution to food security and agricultural growth in the country, especially in drought periods. The available 1 000 small, medium and large water bodies remain under-utilised, mainly due to lack of investment and foreign direct investment in irrigation development, rehabilitation and modernisation,” reads the report.

In an interview with Sunday News, seasoned livestock farmer Mr Obert Chinhamo highlighted how sanctions impacted on the export market of their products. With the Convention on Beef and Veal Protocol, Zimbabwe had a preferential tariff quota which allowed it to export 9 100 tonnes of beef into the EU annually. 

Mr Chinhamo said the sector has been failing to export ever since the introduction of the sanctions. He further said the shortage of vaccines and other drugs indicates how sanctions affected animal health in the country. 

“One of the impacts of these sanctions on our sector is failure to export. They continue to site the disease situation of the country as the major impediment which is not true. Our neighbouring countries have foot and mouth disease but they continue to export because they are not under sanctions. 

“Our sector highly depends on drugs and vaccines hence ever since the introduction of these sanctions, they are now very expensive as we get them from third parties. Most parts in our farm machinery are not manufactured in Zimbabwe and with the imposition of sanctions, it has been difficult to get these repairs. I can give you an example of the lister pumps that we were using and were manufactured in Europe,” said Mr Chinhamo. 

Research has shown that the market access impacted in all sectors of agriculture. Horticulture was the fastest growing sector and generated significant amounts of foreign currency, and at one point becoming the second largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco. The horticulture export industry grew from US$32 million in 1990/91 to a value of about US$143 million in the 1998/99 season.

“Due to sanctions the country lost most of its niche and lucrative markets for horticulture products. Previously, farmers used to export horticulture produce to the Netherlands and the UK. However, these markets were closed due to sanctions, resulting in a significant decline in the horticulture industry. 

“By 2005, horticulture exports had gone down to about US$72 million, with the value further tumbling to US$40 million by 2009. The horticultural industry’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell from about 4.5 percent before sanctions to the current 0.8 percent

“Under the Sugar Protocol, Zimbabwe’s preferential tariff quota stood at 30 225 metric tonnes annually. It could increase its sugar quota by a further 25 000 metric tonnes under the variable Special Preference. All the quotas were lost due to sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe,” observes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Research has also shown that due to sanctions, a number of agricultural programmes and projects were terminated. The Danish International Development Agency’s (DANIDA) support to Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector in 1998 was about USD15.4 million. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was supporting five projects in Zimbabwe to the tune of US$215,700; namely the National Agricultural Extension and Research Project (US$39.4 million), Agricultural Credit and Export Promotion Project (US$116.9 million), Small Dry Areas Resource Management Project (US$19.8 million), South Eastern Dry Areas Project (US$20.3 million) and the Smallholder Irrigation Support Programme (US$19.3 million). All these projects were stopped after the imposition of sanctions.

United Nations

 As fittingly put by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, “sustainable development goals offer a vision of a fair more prosperous, peaceful and sustainable world in which no one is left behind”. 

Regrettably, the unjustified and illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and its allies run counter to this noble vision, impacting negatively on the country’s agriculture sector. – @nyeve14

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