Whether or not Zambia will have a bumper harvest is neither here nor there.
At the end of the day the reality is that more than 80 percent of the bumper harvest will have been produced by small scale farmers who are least regarded in the disbursement of national resources.
This sector has the largest potential of creating employment and contribution to national wealth in proportion that the mining industry cannot match.
The spectre of structural unemployment being experienced in Zambia where more than 80 percent of the eligible population is engaged in the informal sector can be attributed to the failure by successive government to translate the potential that Zambia holds in agriculture into a viable industry that will give quick sustained and long lasting economic benefit.
Sadly, the Zambian farmer especially in the small scale industry is on his own. Few peasant farmers have access to technology, finance and extension services, but they still work hard to produce a bumper harvest of which this government is proud.
Not only that the ordinary peasant farmer produces more than 70 percent of the tobacco crop and nearly 100 percent of cotton all of which are presently in various stages of stupor because of poor prices, lack of market, and indeed lack of oversight from government.
The government recently promised a price stabilization mechanism for cotton but as it stands it is the tobacco farmer who is now under siege because the product has slumped both in demand and price, thereby rendering months of hard work into a futile activity.
In essence our farmers are consigned to a life of back breaking work with pitiful returns because successive government have failed to appreciate and therefore invest seriously in upgrading the potential and performance of this very important sector.
This is amply demonstrated by the fact that this years bumper harvest, produced at great cost, is
still in the fields and the farmers are sitting on tenterhooks waiting for the marketing season to open and with it the establishment of the floor price for maize.
This year is particularly significant as the plight of other farmers has come under glaring spotlight. More specifically the plight of tobacco farmers is still active and under intense debate.
The few farmers that have managed to have their tobacco crop accepted have complained bitterly about the price. Others have complained about the negative payment which has resulted from deductions made on their crop in relation to the inputs they may have received.
In short it has become very clear that farmers stand on their own in as far as defending value for their produce is concerned. The Government will undoubtedly determine the price for maize and for all practical reasons the price will be political.
This is inevitable because maize is a political crop consumed mainly by line of rail residents who also represent the highest number of voters.
As a result the price must mitigate between rewarding the farmer and ensuring that the consumer is not estranged politically by a price that they cannot afford. Already the price of mealie meal has reached K100 in some of the remote rural areas where the population can ill afford it.
The Government is making every effort to ensure that the price in urban areas is stable and below the K100 mark for very obvious reasons. At one stage a suggestion was made for price controls to be imposed which would have been to the detriment of the farmer.
It is clear therefore that unless the government invests seriously in agriculture it will remain a back breaking and thankless preoccupation that always performs below expectation.