Fuel supplies should be stabilised urgently for industry and farmers to access it and increase production to ensure food security and conservation of foreign currency, experts have said.
Businesses and farmer organisations fear that the sale of fuel in foreign currency by some service stations will lead to redollarisation, which could affect the competitiveness of industry.
They said they no longer get special treatment in terms of fuel allocation and were spending production hours in queues like any other motorist.
At fuel stations, corruption has become the order of the day, as attendants connive with some customers and demand kickbacks.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) immediate-past president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said the shortage of fuel, which is a major economic enabler, has adversely affected production.
Said Mr Jabangwe: “Fuel is the enabler of everything and should be stabilised. From agriculture to mining, everyone heavily depends on fuel.
“Yes, Government has allowed those with free funds to import fuel and sell it in forex, but this should be a temporary measure.”
He said selling fuel in forex will only benefit those who accessed it, while the majority who earn the local currency will continue to struggle.
“There should be no segregation in accessing fuel,” he said. “Those who import using their money want to recoup their expenses and they will continue selling in hard currency.”
Selling fuel in forex, added Mr Jabangwe, would lead to redollarisation, which the country is not ready to adopt.
“It is very difficult for the economy to redollarise,” he said. “We do not have enough forex reserves to sustain that because it will mean that one needs hard currency to buy basics like tomatoes.”
Farmers’ union representatives said maize farmers required at least 100 litres of diesel per hectare from land preparation up to harvesting, while their tobacco counterparts require about 200 litres per hectare.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said agriculture produced 60 percent of the raw materials needed by the manufacturing sector and should be prioritised in fuel allocations.
“Sixty percent of the raw materials that power the manufacturing sector come from agriculture. In the past, farmers would get special fuel supplying facilities and would buy it at wholesale price, but now we are being made to queue for long hours just like any other motorist and this is adversely affecting production,” he said.
Mr Chabikwa said his membership had the potential to increase production if they got the necessary support from the Government and stakeholders.
“We should not reinvent the wheel and we should not kill the hen that lays the golden egg. Tobacco farmers are the most affected by the prevailing fuel shortages. Those with an irrigated crop are now busy harvesting. There is a lot of trailer work involved at this crucial stage and this requires a lot of fuel as tobacco has to be transported from the fields to curing barns and then to the auction floors.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Shadreck Makombe said farmers should be allowed to access fuel directly from the National Oil Infrastructure Company (NOIC). – Herald