PRESIDENT Emerson Mnangagwa has said Africans are worried about agricultural production deficit as countries are spending as high a $50 billion annually importing agricultural products.
The bulk of the region’s imports are made up of rice, maize and wheat.
Officiating at the Southern African Confederation of African Farmers Union (SACAU) conference attended by about 20 farmers unions from 12 Sadc countries in Victoria Falls on Monday, President Mnangagwa called for collaboration among member states so as to transform the agricultural sector.
He said partnerships which would result in full utilisation of water and land resources were key to development of the agricultural sector which has capacity to stimulate growth.
“It is regrettable that African countries spend between $30 billion and $50 billion annually on imports of agricultural products instead of developing the productive capacities necessary for trade,” said President Mnangagwa.
He added: “This reality gives greater impetus for us all, governments, unions, farers and private sector to heavily invest in agriculture to produce for our own needs within the continent as well as for export.”
Experts say the import bill was around $7 billion in 2001.
President Mnangagwa challenged all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to ensure that the region moves from producing for consumption and start contributing to global food requirements through producing for trade.
He said transformation of the agricultural sector can stir investment and economic growth through stimulating exports, reduction of poverty, creation of jobs and improving national food security.
President Mnangagwa called on the private sector to partner governments in financing agriculture.
The President said there was also a need to fund research in the region on appropriate technology, new farming methods, post-harvest management methods, seed variety development, crop scheduling, proper land use systems.
This he said would help farmers realise the benefits of trade through broad based strategies.
The conference seeks to find ways of enhancing trade in the region.
It is being held under the theme “Trade as a driver of Agricultural Transformation in Southern Africa.”
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had made great strides in revitalising its agriculture once shadowed by the controversial land reform of 2000.
He said Zimbabwe is now trying to modernise and grow agriculture in line with the regional and continental aspirations of poverty reduction, food and nutrition security and sustainable development through accelerating the implementation of national agriculture investment plans to spearhead afro-based economic recovery in Southern Africa.