The Government should take more care of our farmers.
It is not fair that farmers, especially peasants and small scale are always exposed to natural and market vagaries.
They should be protected in their noble efforts of providing for national needs.
Commitment to agriculture must go beyond the perfunctory to practical support. It must touch the farmer at the point of most need.
Such support should include price stabilization for crops, technology for storage and indeed post harvest to ensure value addition.
Two years ago, the plight of cotton growers gripped the country as prices plunged to their lowest records ever.
In the absence of a price stabilization scheme ordinary farmers suffered huge losses as even the little they earned was further diminished by deductions against un-puts they obtained from financing institutions, in some cases leaving them with negative outcomes.
We hope, as Vice President Guy Scott has suggested that adequate measures have been instituted to ensure that hardworking farmers are not left to hang and dry in times when world markets collapse or indeed when the hand of nature affects yields.
Farming is not the easiest of occupations, as it is very easily affected by natural and unnatural variables which are often out of the control of the farmers themselves.
Such is the case now with tobacco farmers who are confronted with serious marketing challenges.
The markets have opened late and the prices being offered are below expectation. Anxious Farmers now want Government to intervene.
Famers have complained that the late opening of markets has plunged small scale farmers into misery as the crop they are holding represented their only source of income. The situation has unfortunately opened an opportunity for brief case buyers who are taking advantage of the situation to offer “ridiculous” prices to farmers who are more than ready to accept cash to avoid dealing with input suppliers against whom they have outstanding amounts on supplies obtained on credit.
This situation, we feel is unfortunate for various reasons.
Firstly it is very important for the Government to keep close contact with farmers to ensure that their efforts will not be wasted by lack of markets. There is nothing worse for the farmer than see his effort go to waste because the marketing mechanism fails.
This situation should not arise if Government is serious about diversifying the economy and creating more job opportunities in the agriculture industry.
Secondly Government should have an interest in the total life cycle of crops in the country. At the moment maize seems to be the only crop that receives any form of attention from the Government.
This should not be the case because diversification will not only enrich national potential but will ensure that other crops are also given an opportunity to contribute towards national agriculture capacity.