THE recent restructuring of the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) is expected to enhance its primary mandate of regulating production, processing and marketing of various agricultural products in Zimbabwe, its chairman Mr Allan Majuru said yesterday.
For long, farmers have been calling for overhauling of AMA to ensure better service delivery.
Some stakeholders where viewing AMA as a ‘revenue collector’ rather than a partner in development and promoting fair market practices. It had repeatedly failed to solve the chaotic marketing of various crops, particularly cotton where side marketing is rampant.
AMA, which is charged with enforcing cotton regulations has over the years demonstrated reluctance to enforce effective deterrent penalties resulting in total chaos in the marketing of the commodity. The primary cause of the failure of the cotton industry between 2012 and 2015 was side marketing largely due to regulatory failure.
For instance, US based agro-focused firm, Cargill closed its local cotton business in 2014 citing operational challenges. Cargill, which had more than 20 000 farmers under its cotton contract scheme, significantly suffered from low cotton output, depressed margins as well as high levels of breach of contractual obligations by cotton growers.
Similarly, The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) almost went into judicial management in 2014 after its debt ballooned to nearly US$50 million after it lost it’s a significant amount if its crop through side marketing. Cottco, which is now administering the Presidential Inputs Scheme since 2015, has also been losing significant amount of cotton to private players through marketing, further exposing regulatory failure.
Mr Majuru said the restructuring, which saw retrenchment two senior executives and a manager fulfilled President Mnangagwa’s pledge during the 6th Annual National Agribusiness Conference held in August 2018 where he said the Second Republic will restructure the Agricultural Marketing Authority to make it “more responsive to address these marketing gaps within the sector . . . and deal decisively with side marketing.”
Subsequently, a new board led by Mr Majuru was appointed in October 2019 as part of the AMA’s restructuring exercise.
To drive the transformation of AMA, the new board appointed a substantive chief executive officer, Mr Clever Isaya in July 2020 to turn AMA into a robust, innovative and effective regulator for the agricultural sector.
Mr Majuru said the restructuring of AMA was expected to improve the role played by the agriculture sector towards the nation’s Vision 2030.
“There is need to understand that for Zimbabwe to achieve Vision 2030 of transforming the country into an upper middle-class economy, there is need to prioritise agriculture as this is one of the key sectors of the economy,” Mr Majuru told our Harare Bureau.
“A well-coordinated agricultural sector, which contributes meaningfully to national economy therefore requires AMA to be an honest arbiter, facilitator, enabler and a force multiplier to achieve the set targets.”
Majuru added the transformation of AMA was market driven and is expected to address challenges raised by farmers and other key stakeholders.
“There was also need to align with the Agricultural and Food Systems Transformation Strategy and the Horticulture Recovery Plan so that we assist players in all different value chains,” he said.
“So this transformation comes at a time when the country is gearing for improved agricultural production, which is a low hanging fruit considering the competitive and comparative advantage enjoyed by Zimbabwean farmers.”
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Mr Paul Zakariya said it was now critical that AMA moved with speed to implement policies that “enhances ease of doing business.”
“AMA should do more in terms of making it easier for one selling and one buying,” said Mr Zakariya.
“It should also extend its mandate beyond production by eliminating profiteering in inputs credit scheme and look at speedy implementation of marketing platforms.”
Agriculture economist Dr Midway Bhunu said AMA, as an authority should come up with a deliberate robust engagement strategy to involve all key value chain actors for different value chains starting with the one with known production and marketing challenges such cotton and tobacco.
This would help them in understanding real bottlenecks that result in problems of side marketing among other counter production behaviours.
“To start with it is very important for all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to appreciate the role or mandate of AMA in driving sustainable agriculture and marketing,” said Dr Bhunu.
“This institution should be resourced to be fully capacitated to deliver its mandate.”
Dr Bhunu said the private sector was also key in supporting AMA‘s mandate and “this can only happen when producers and buyers understand AMA’s role.”
AMA is a statutory body established in terms of an Act of Parliament and is mandated with the overall regulation of the production, marketing and processing of agricultural products in Zimbabwe.