Abigail Mawonde Herald Correspondent—
SEED companies yesterday said they were ready for the new farming season, including supporting the Government-initiated Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs Support schemes, but warned that delays in payment could derail progress. Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development touring seed companies in Harare yesterday, Du Pont Pioneer-Pannar Zimbabwe Private Limited managing director Mr Temba Nkatazo said they were ready for the farming season.

The committee also toured Agriseeds. “We have the seeds. We have been sending them out to retail stores. We are also sending some towards the Command Agriculture Scheme and the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

“If the programmes were going to be properly implemented, the country would not suffer from hunger. Things need to be done on time, but the problem is that we start running around in November.

“For someone who comes from Gokwe, in the next week we will be hearing that the roads are no longer accessible. “When serious rains start, no car or lorry can access those areas. We risk being unable to access areas such as Gokwe, Nkayi and Muzarabani, among others,” said Mr Nkatazo.

“So, it is this window period that we have between now and next week, to ensure that seeds are supplied to various parts of the country.” Mr Nkatazo said Du Pont-Pannar Zimbabwe had so far distributed over 1 000 tonnes of maize seed.

He said another 1 000 tonnes would be released next week. “Like I said, the challenges that are there are those of payments. The money would not have been paid hence, we cannot supply.”

He said the target for Command Agriculture was 4 500 tonnes. The target for farmers outside the schemes is 2 500 tonnes. The target for 2016-17 farming season ranges between 7 500 and 8 000 tonnes of maize seed. Mr Nkatazo said seed prices were reasonable.

“One of the things I have learnt is that Zimbabweans complain over almost everything. There is no country in the world that buys maize at $390 per tonne. In America it is $150, South Africa is $240, Zambia is $260. That is why they all want to sell their maize here. Yet our farmers never complain that they are being paid a lot of money. There is no price like $390 in the world. Go to Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Argentina, South Africa and China.

“As for our maize seed, we sell at $2 500 per tonne, South Africa is $5 000 per tonne, Zambia $4 500 per tonne, Mozambique $3 800 per tonne. What has been making our farmers complain is their yield. These other countries I am talking about are getting five, six, seven tonnes per hectare. America is getting 19 to 24 tonnes per hectare because of technology.

“Now, if we compare our own farmer who grows maize and gets one and half tonnes in a scenario where the maize is side-by-side with grass in the field, and yields one and half tonnes, he has reason to complain, but the issue of pricing should then not be the reason to complain,” he said.

“You would not buy a pocket of seed from America, it is expensive. South Africa is $5 000 a tonne of seed and this is why you do not see people in South Africa sending seed by bus like any other product when there is a shortage here, because it is expensive.”

He dismissed rumours seed companies were supplying Government old stock. “We never had any old stock for our seeds because we were sold out last year. All the seed we are supplying is new stock.”

Agriseeds managing director Mr Simon Nyanhete denied the allegations as well. Both seed companies bemoaned the current cash challenges for affecting sales. Mr Nkatazo also bemoaned a ban on exports by Government.

He ridiculed Minister Joseph Made over the matter.

“Minister Made just woke up one morning ndofunga vamboti putei mbichana, then he announced a ban on exports abruptly. Then I went and begged him saying my dear, you cannot put a ban on exports because there was a market we were looking after.

“The solution was that for instance if a company was exporting 4 000 tonnes, you say we have suspended it for a while. Oh, your journalists’ phones are recording; anyway it does not matter, he is my buddy.

“It was better to say, we have suspended exports for a while and as a result, if you were exporting 4 000 tonnes, you may start exporting 2 000 tonnes until production rises. He just slashed exports completely just like that,” he said.

Acting committe chairperson and Marambapfungwe legislator Cde Washington Musvaire requested Mr Nkatazo to withdraw his statement.

“Thank you very much, but before we proceed, I thought you realised there are those gadgets (voice recorders), which are in front of you. I would want to appeal to you to withdraw the statement that you made to say that ‘after Minister Made vaputa’. It is not good for us,” he said.

Mr Nkatazo withdrew the statement.