SIXTY-NINE thousand farmers are set to produce sunflowers under a contract arrangement after the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) struck a partnership deal with Zimgold and Agriculture Advisory and Rural Development Services (ARDAS).
As the market regulator, AMA is facilitating the contract arrangement that will see 100 000ha being put under sunflowers, as part of efforts to reduce the country’s sunflower oil import bill.
“We are giving farmers five kilogrammes for a hectare with all farmers guaranteed of a market for their produce,” said Zimgold supply chain manager Mr Zakaria Mupachike.
Small-scale farmers often struggle to find markets for their produce especially for strategic crops where there is stiff competition from established commercial farmers.
The contract farming programme, which is being rolled out in key provinces such as Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Midlands, Mashonaland central Manicaland, Matabeleland and Masvingo aims at promoting easy market access for farmers who will be involved in the programme.
Zimgold oil manufacturers is contracting farmers with at least a hectare of land for contract farming. The contracts will enable farmers to sell their produce to the oil pressers mitigating marketing problems for the farmers in the process.
The development comes at a time the Government is calling for businesses to fund 40 percent of raw materials locally.
Zimgold as the contractor will not charge farmers for the supplied seed, as a way of increasing farmer business viability for maximum production.
“Seed will be given for free and the cost will not be deducted on the farmer’s earnings when they sell they produce, as the company aims to promote the sunflower growing scheme,” added Mr Mupachike.
Furthermore, contract farming is a critical aspect of agriculture business, which gives farmers access to markets, capital and other pertinent inputs crucial for intensive production,” said AMA chief executive officer Mr Clever Isaya recently highlighting how contract farming provided manufacturers with a guaranteed supply of raw materials.
Sunflower is an essential oilseed crop that has been produced in the country for ages. However, the production volumes of the crop have declined over the past few years as oil pressers shifted their focus towards soya bean as a substitute.
“Currently the country is producing just over 10 000 tonnes of sunflower, which falls short of the national requirements of 50 000 tonnes,” Mr Isaya further said.
In the middle of climate change worries that are affecting production, sunflower production as a drought tolerant crop is a strategic option, as the country moves towards climate proofing the agriculture sector.
Zimgold will also establish buying points in areas such as Bulawayo and Rusape where they are not offering contract farming facilities.