Soya beans farmers wary of contractors

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SOYA bean growers have called on Government to put in place a regulatory system governing terms of contract farmers on the back of increasing number of investors willing to support local growers.
Soya bean production which suffered as a result of economic hardships is being revived and stakeholders have expressed interest in assisting farmers.
But farmers have been skeptical of contactors whom they have accused of short-changing them.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union second vice-president Berean Mukwende said there was an expected rise in the production of the legume hence the need to address the issue of contract farming.
“Government should put in place measures that will guide and ensure a contracted farmer enters into the deal aware of the terms involved,” he said.
“Farmers are eager to see soya bean production levels rise and with the much needed support from Government and stakeholders the sub-sector may be boosted.”
Last month, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for Crop, Mechanisation and Irrigation Davies Marapira said contractors were welcome, but there was need for farmers to get a full understanding of contracts before signing them.
Soya bean production is expected to rise following the injection of US$35 million by Government and the private sector to enhance production.
An increase from 70 500 tonnes last year to about 115 000 tonnes this season is anticipated.
Mukwende said the expected rise was as a result of the growing interest in the production of the legume by farmers.
“In the past seasons we have witnessed a significant number of farmers diverting from traditional crops such as maize to venture into soya bean production and other small grains which are fetching lucrative prices on the market despite being capital intensive,” he said.
“The on-the-spot payment that has been happening in the soya bean sector has enticed most of our farmers to produce the crop rather than crops such as maize whereby they deliver first and get paid much later.”
Mukwende said the increase in production was also being buoyed by the increasing demand of the crop and its by-products.
A number of farmers, he said, had also switched to soya beans as a result of poor returns from crops such as cotton.
The National Soya bean Promotion Taskforce in the past season carried out training programmes to enhance new farmers’ knowledge on the crop and improve quality.
Taskforce coordinator Professor Isheunesu Mupepereki said there was growing interest for soya-bean production due to the legume’s high returns.
“There is an increasing number of farmers who want to venture into soya-bean production after the realisation that it is a lucrative cash crop,” he said.
“With the expected increase farmers have to produce a quality crop.”
Soya beans are used in a variety of ways such as meat substitute, fertilisers, animal feeds and are a source of special oils while contributing 30 percent of the country’s cooking oil production.
Soya bean production levels have over the years dwindled as farmers failed to access finances for operations.
Financial institutions’ failure to avail adequate resources to the agriculture sector did not help matters.
Soya bean production has been on the decline over the years due to lack of markets as local companies had reduced production as consumers preferred cheap imports.
The decline in production resulted in local seed producers producing less seed and in turn farmers and contractors failed to access adequate seed for various support schemes.
Local growers could not opt for imported seed as the country uses a different type of seed from the neighbouring countries.
Zimbabwe uses the traditional seed and South Africa uses a GMO seed.
Other countries such as Zambia and Malawi are not big producers of soya beans only producing seed enough for their farmers and not for export.
Last year a number of soya bean contract schemes were availed but later abandoned during the cropping season due to the inadequate seed supplies.
Contractors highlighted that they had failed to secure adequate seeds as soya bean producers only produced 5 000 tonnes of seed.
At peak production in 2000 Zimbabwe produced 170 000 tonnes of the legume and the levels of production have continued to drop since then.

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