Mnangagwa’s ally warns Parliament of disastrous farming season

Justice Wadyajena

Parliament has warned that government projections for the 2023 agricultural season will be severely affected by poor budgeting with the paltry ZWL$362bn allocation insufficient and likely to spell doom in a country facing food crisis.

The ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development received ZWL$362.5bn from Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube’s ZWL$4.5 trillion budget allocation, a figure described as too little to finance a key sector like agriculture.

In analysing the 2023 national budget, the portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena said it was worried with the allocation that fell short of regional and international expectations insisting that will jeopardise the coming season.

Wadyajena also described as disastrous the reduction of the number of targeted beneficiaries under the Agriculture Productive Social Protection Scheme from three million households to 900,000 in the 2023 national budget adding the move was cause for the committee’s concern.

He said the allocation would be eroded by inflation and in actual fact be lower than the 2022 allocation and therefore insignificant.

“The committee is concerned that the previous resource allocations have failed to transform the agriculture sector, as reflected by low yields. Productivity at most farms is currently at about 1.5 to 2 tonnes per hectare, at a time when 4.5 to 5 tonnes per hectare is possible,” Wadyajena said.

“The adequacy of the ministry’s budget can also be assessed with respect to what the ministry had requested. By comparing the ministry’s allocation in relation with what they had asked for, it is quite evident that they got only about 30% of their request which would mean that the programmes they were targeting will not be fully executed,” the Zanu PF lawmaker said in the report.

Wadyajena said there were fears some of the projections set by the ministry may not be implemented due to inadequate budget.

“The low resources relative to what had been bid is a concern for the committee, as this means that some projects and programmes that had been scheduled for next year will not be implemented,” he said.

The 2023 budgetary allocation for the ministry is an increase of about 56.4% compared to the revised estimates for 2022, the report reads in part.

“The National Budget projects average annual inflation for 2023 to be double digit levels without specifying a number. If inflation end up exceeding 56.4%, it would imply that the allocation for 2023 is lower than the 2022 allocation in real terms,” he said.

He said the committee will continue to monitor resource utilisation to advocate for a revision in the Mid-term review if resources are getting eroded by inflation.

“The committee is therefore worried that the allocation of about 8% to agriculture is below the Maputo and Malabo Declarations. This is made worse by the fact that the ministry is very broad, with its mandate including other areas which might not be under the functions of the ‘agriculture’ ministries in other countries, for example, ‘water’, ‘fisheries’ and ‘rural development’ functions could be separate. This means that the allocated resources are not enough.”

“The allocation of only 8% of the budget is below what would be ideal for the sector. The budget allocation to the agriculture sector for the last three years have been consistent with the CAADP [Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme] requirements of at least 10%. The sudden drop in 2023 is a cause for concern.”

Wadyajena said there was no sufficient budgeting for climate change adaptation through the capacitation of the Crop Breeding Institute.

The committee recommended that the reduction of the number of targeted beneficiaries under the Agriculture Productive Social Protection Scheme from three million households to 900,000 in the 2023 national budget was a major concern and would be disastrous.

“The number should be brought back to 3 million with a commensurate increase in allocation,” the report said. – Business Times