Zimbawe’s agricultural sector needs massive retooling to increase production as it is still relying on antiquated equipment.
Farming experts said as long as the situation remains like this, the sector’s capacity to produce more will be constrained, leading to an increase in the country’s import bill.
A researcher at Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies, Walter Chambati, said Zimbabwe’s fertiliser industry — for example — is still dependent on technology from the 1950s, which consumes a lot of electricity.
“. . . so we need to focus on how we can retool the agro-industry to produce inputs for the agriculture sector and also absorb raw materials for their production of various products that they put on the market,” he said.
A key player in the production of fertilisers — Sable Chemical Industries Limited — is Zimbabwe’s sole manufacturer of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertiliser.
It was established in the 1960s, and it is massively powered by electricity.
Chambati said the sector needs to modernise machinery, irrigation schemes and farming methods in light of the climate change phenomenon.
He said the transformation of the sector is key to the rise of the economy given the backward and forward linkages between agriculture and agro-industrial based sector in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union’s executive director Paul Zakaria concurred, saying there is need to upgrade costly primeval techniques still being used in the sector in order to become efficient.
“Production methods are also still very conventional… we need appropriate methods that are suitable and the right type of technology that is suitable.
“. . . in irrigation, they are doing flood irrigation, the oldest model which does not conserve water at all like drip irrigation where you are targeting the crop itself,” Zakaria said.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s premier agriculture finance institution, Agribank reportedly needs $200 million to recapitalise and support the country’s agriculture activities.
Although agriculture is a key component to the recovery of Zimbabwe’s economy, much still needs to be done to retool the sector which contributes 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.