Agriculture poised to grow further next year — Mthuli

Prof. Mthuli Ncube

Agricultural output should continue rising next year driven by Government interventions and with the 2024 national Budget expected to introduce further measures to increase the role of the private sector in funding farming as part of market reforms, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, has said.

The measures, which are contained in Prof Ncube’s 2024 Budget strategy paper, will include reviewing the marketing model for all strategic crops, establishing agro-processing centres and increasing direct access by private buyers to self-financed farmers.

A budget strategy paper is a document meant to improve transparency in the preparation of the national budget and forms the basis for a detailed budget preparation process that will culminate in the presentation and approval of the budget by Parliament later this year.

“The country remains on track to achieve sustainable food self-sufficiency and nutrition security by 2025, having achieved record outputs in some strategic crops and positive performances in beef and milk production, among others,” said Prof Ncube.

While there is self-sufficiency now in grain, with surpluses arising that can be exported, Zimbabwe still imports a diminishing amount of oil seeds and dairy products.

“Growth for the sector is projected at 9,7 percent during 2023, and is expected to remain strong at 3,3 percent during 2024, benefiting from continued targeted State support for the vulnerable households under the various Government supported programmes, complemented by increasing participation of the private sector in the production and marketing of agricultural output.”

Given the central role of agriculture in the economy, said Prof Ncube, Government interventions during 2024 will focus on upscaling production and productivity of the sector, raise incomes and create jobs as well as further develop market access through business linkages for smallholder farmers with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large firms by liberalising marketing arrangements.

“Government will also review financing mechanisms for each of the subsectors, particularly tobacco and cotton, to sustain the positive growth path.

“The Budget will introduce further measures to increase the role of the private sector in funding agricultural activities, that includes reviewing the marketing model for all strategic crops, establishing agroprocessing centres and increasing access to grain output directly from self-financed farmers,” said Prof Ncube.

“Furthermore, measures to capacitate the local industry and enhance competition through among others, the Five-Year Fertiliser Import Substitution Road Map (2020-2024), will be implemented to ensure adequate availability and access of affordable inputs by farmers, which is critical in ensuring reduced costs along the value chain and economy.”

The commodity exchange, said Prof Ncube, was established to unlock value from agriculture by creating a structured and inclusive agricultural financing and marketing model.

The Zimbabwe Mercantile Exchange now operates as the Commodity Exchange, offering a warehouse receipt system, commodity spot market trading platform and futures market trading platform.

“The warehouse receipt system has been fully developed and auctions for selected grains and oilseeds has been successfully conducted, broadening market options for farmers and reducing fiscal burden and reliance on GMB.

“The range of products and services offered by the exchange will be broadened going forward, allowing market access for farmers, price discovery and convenient trading of agricultural commodities,” he said.

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