By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
Harare, August 17, 2016 – THE opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dismissed government’s newly introduced command agriculture which seeks ease the country’s perennial grain shortages by capacitating 2 000 farmers who will in turn be tasked to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of maize.
Under the ambitious programme, government seeks to disburse $500 million in efforts to produce a total of two million tonnes of maize from 400 000 hectares of land.
In a statement Tuesday, PDP said this model of agricultural production was ill advised while government had no money and was very incapable of introducing this type of agriculture.
“That command agriculture is the brain child of Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa is proof that the government has no brains at all it is thus incapable of thinking,” PDP said.
“Mnangagwa has failed to explain where the bankrupt government that is failing to pay civil servants will get the money to fund the programme.”
The PDP noted that Zanu PF had shown that it had no ideas of allowing freedom of choice and was introducing dictatorship even in the agricultural sector.
“This Zanu PF government has no idea of the voluntary nature of enterprise and the freedom of individuals to make choices. It believes that everything is by force and force only,” they said.
Tendai Biti’s party likened the new form of agriculture to the newly introduced Statutory Instrument 64/2016 which imposes import restrictions on certain products in the country.
“This is similar to the belief that you can control human behaviour as it did in the Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 (SI64) when the government banned the importation of certain products in a bid to control the huge import bill. However, SI64 has proved to be a disaster and is not working. Equally, command agriculture will not work,” they said.
Zimbabwe currently faces acute food shortages whose causes have been attributed the disastrous land reform programme which government has embarked on since 2000.
Since the chaotic pro-black land programme was started, agricultural output has plunged with the once bread basket of southern Africa now an importer of grain.
In its statementon command agriculture, PDP said the current market conditions did not allow for any business in the country in agriculture.
“The behaviour of farmers is dictated by market conditions. Prevailing market conditions in Zimbabwe are not conducive to any form of business including agriculture.
“The high cost of finance, the interest rates of over 25%, high electricity and erratic supplies, poor infrastructure and poor rain seasons are factors are factors that farmers take into account.
“With the rate of non-payment of delivered maize to Grain Marketing Board (GMB), farmers are not happy with the experience of delivering their maize to the corrupt parastatal.
“This is why most farmers have gone into cash crops including tobacco, barley, wheat and livestock, products which the government has no control over,” added PDP.
The party instead urged Zanu PF to adopt good governance even in the farming sector.
“As the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), we support good farming governance. Command agriculture is not. To address food shortages, the government must give farmers land leases, which will allow them to borrow money from banks and let the farmers have freedom to control their land and agricultural activities,” said PDP.