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Zimbabwe farmers face gloomy season amid soaring seed prices

by Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean farmers are facing a gloomy season with unfavorable weather conditions forecast for the planting season, compounded by a massive hike in seed prices.

Zimbabwe is one of 25 high-risk countries to be adversely affected by El Nino and is expected to receive normal to below-normal rainfall from October to March, while maize seed producers have more than trebled their prices.

A bag of maize seed, which was selling for 25 U.S. dollars last season, is now going for 100 dollars while a 25 kg bag is being sold for about 250 dollars, up from 70 dollars, according to a price list published last week by one of the major seed producers.

The producers did not give reasons for the massive hike, but prices of basic commodities have been going up of late, with producers citing a shortage of foreign currency and high rates of exchange on the black market.

The situation has left many farmers, especially small-scale ones, wondering whether they should grow maize in the coming season or simply wait to buy grain next year as there are fears that the prices of other inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides will also go up.

Some are considering using some of the grain they harvested last season as seed but are not sure of the yields.

"I will definitely not buy seed this year.

"I have no choice when it comes to fertilizers but I will use cow dung instead of basal fertilizer, even though I know that I will have to work extra hard weeding the fields because dung usually carries a lot of weed seed," small farmer Emmanuel Tigere told Xinhua.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu condemned the increases, saying that there was no justification for producers to raise prices.

"The price increases are absolutely not justified.

"We are worried... as it comes at a time that our farmers are preparing to go back to till their land," he told the state-run Herald newspaper.

Ndlovu said the government would engage the seed producers over the matter.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakaria said farmers would in turn push for a rise in the producer price if the seed prices are left where they were.

"If these prices are not controlled, farmers will downsize their production because of unaffordable costs of inputs.

"This will obviously affect production.

"There is, therefore, need for a social contract between government, business and consumers," he told a press conference.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa also said that farmers are not happy with the new prices.

"It is a huge shock for the farmers," he said.


Zimbabwe seed producers cut prices after public outcry

HARARE Zimbabwe(Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe seed producers have cut the prices of their products following an outcry from farmers and representations by the government.

The producers more than doubled their prices last week, citing unfavorable operating conditions.

A snap survey by Xinhua on Wednesday showed that prices have been down drastically, although they remained high for many farmers.

One leading seed producer cut the price of medium-season variety of maize seed from 250.82 Zimbabwean bond dollars per 25 kg bag to 138 dollars, while prices for a 10 kg bag of the same variety went down from 100 dollars to 55 dollars.

Despite the reduction, farmers on Wednesday said the prices are still too high and production would be adversely affected.

A bag of maize seed, now costing 55 dollars, was selling for 25 U.S. dollars last season.

Zimbabwean monetary authorities peg the bond dollars at 1:1 to the U.S. dollar, but the greenback is sold at more than twice the bond dollar on the black market.

President of the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union Abdul Nyathi told Xinhua on Wednesday that the price cuts are not enough and small-holder farmers still cannot afford to plant in the coming season.

"Take for instance the 10 kg bag of maize, which was selling at around 25 dollars last season.

"The same now costs 55 dollars, and this is double last season's price," he said.

"A lot of people are saying this is not sustainable and they will not go back on the land to farm."

He also said the producers had only reduced prices of short- and medium-season variety seeds and left the high yielding longer-term varieties untouched.

"Farmers prefer the long-term varieties because they have higher yields, but the producers left the prices very high.

"Wait and see if anyone will buy those seeds," he said.

Prices of fertilizers also went down, with a 50 kg bag of top dressing going down from 80 bond dollars to 60 dollars, while basal fertilizer went down from 75 dollars to 55 dollars.

Both fertilizers cost less than 40 dollars last season.


Zimbabwean ruling party warns opposition against 'treasonous' utterances

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has warned that claims by MDC Alliance vice president Morgen Komichi that the opposition party had installed its president Nelson Chamisa as the state president was treasonous and that the party was thus "playing with fire."

The opposition party on Saturday held its 19th anniversary commemorations in Harare where Chamisa was said to have been installed as state president.

ZANU-PF secretary for information and publicity Simon Khaya Moyo said the installation was a "kindergarten spectacle" and that the MDC Alliance leadership should bear the consequences of "such misguided conduct and avoid playing with fire," state newspaper The Herald reported on Monday.

"The political circus at the MDC Alliance celebration at Gwanzura Stadium where those who attended were hoodwinked into believing that Nelson Chamisa is the president of Zimbabwe following the July 30 harmonized elections resembled a kindergarten spectacle.

"In fact, the announcement by Morgen Komichi at the rally that his boss had been duly bestowed as the president of Zimbabwe borders on treason and is condemnable," Moyo said.

He said the fact that Chamisa was invited to the podium to light up what he termed the democracy flame, which resembled the country’s independence flame, was an insult to the protracted liberation struggle that led to majority rule in 1980 and an affront to Zimbabweans as a whole.

Chamisa narrowly lost the presidential election to ZANU-PF President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and an appeal to the Constitutional Court to nullify the result did not provide him with the relief he sought.

He has since threatened mass protests to push Mnangagwa out of the presidency.


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