Agriculture must anchor the economy


THE tobacco marketing season has begun.
Our hard working farmers are now reaping the fruits of their labour.
The first auctioned bale went for US$4/kg and we hope, as the marketing season progresses, prices go up.
Many of our producers are now seasoned tobacco growers delivering a quality crop to the various floors.
Tobacco has become one of the country’s highest foreign currency earners and production levels have been increasing every year.
During the 2017 marketing season, farmers sold more than 185 million kg of flue cured tobacco, with contract farmers contributing most of the deliveries at 158 million kg, while self-financed farmers weighed in with 31 million kg.
Ours is an agro-based economy. Before its decimation by the illegal sanctions imposed by the West protesting the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme, the local industry got 70 percent of its raw materials from the agricultural sector.
It is most heartening that Government has extended the successful and life transforming Command Agriculture Programme to tobacco production.
Indeed, millions now depend on the crop for survival and if its growth is promoted, many households will be the richer for it.
And calls for value addition must be heeded.
Increasing support to the sub-sector will boost ongoing efforts to turn around the economy.
Government and the private sector, including other development partners, are working towards resuscitating the manufacturing sector, which is the backbone of economies the world over.
And it is imperative that the revived manufacturing sector access cheaper raw materials.
More funds must be channelled towards agriculture for other sectors, the medical, hotel and restaurants services, are beneficiaries of this sector.
It is now common knowledge that the tobacco sub-sector has become the mainstay, not just of the agricultural sector, but of the economy.
Every marketing season, it has raked in millions of dollars.
Chemical industries, farming implements producers, transport operators and financial institutions have had a new lease of life anchored in, and supported by, a thriving tobacco industry.
While we have many minerals desperately needed by the world, agriculture is another low-hanging fruit that will give us results in the short-term.
All the necessary resources from land to water are readily available, in abundance.
More than 80 percent of the country’s population depends on agriculture.
Statistics indicate that the country has a total land area of 39,6 million ha and agriculture is practiced on 39,9 percent of the total land area (15,8 million ha) of which 10,9 percent (4,31 million ha) is arable.
The commodities contributing to agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) include tobacco (25 percent), maize (14 percent), cotton (12,5 percent) as well as beef and fish (10 percent).
We can shape our destiny.
Whether we succeed or fail, as a people, as a nation, is entirely up to us.
Skills and resources required to make us a prosperous nation are in place.
More than 400 000 families benefitted from the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
And these families today are living off their land, with a significant number of these ‘new’ owners of land engaged in various forms of agriculture.
Let us ensure that agriculture fully supports other sectors of the economy.


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