ZIMBABWE’S competitiveness in the soya bean market has declined over the years leading the country to be a net importer.
According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe in 2016 imported 9 300 tonnes of soya beans and seed, approximately 119 000mt of crude oil and 78 900mt of soya meal.
Between 2000 and 2015 production of the crop has declined from 135 415 metric tonnes to 41 768mt.
The decline in soya bean production is attributable to low yields, high production costs and ineffective policy implementation.
The national average yield per hectare was estimated to be 1.9mt/ha in 2013 and only 0.5mt among small holder farmers.
This is below that of high producing countries like Argentina which averages 3.4mt/ha.
The situation has led to the country importing soya, crude oil, refined cooking oil and soya bean meal.
Local production is just enough to meet 5% of the country’s oil needs with soya crude oil import bill standing at US$119m in 2016 an amount which is enough to produce 550 000 tonnes of soya beans.
Processors and agribusiness value chain actors have found it more competitive to import inputs for manufacturing rather than buying locally.
CZI says the low competitiveness of production inputs in Zimbabwe drives up the cost of soya bean production to regionally uncompetitive prices.
“These inputs include fertilizers, seed and chemicals. Secondly soya bean production is adversely affected by inefficient farming practices. Profitable and competitive soya farming depends on economies of scale. Farmers limited knowledge on good crop management, on good crop management, inadequate farm mechanization, and irrigation infrastructure however all affect productivity of local farms resulting in declining yields and increased transaction costs per unit output. This has resulted in uncompetitive break even prices of locally produced soya products”.
The soya bean decline is also attributable to competition from other crops such as maize and tobacco which receive high public investment and perverse incentives for players to prioritize maize production and distribution.
CZI noted that successful soya bean producing countries have strong public investment in agricultural infrastructure, technical capacity building, research and development and complementary policies in other agricultural crops.
Deputy permanent secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet Justin Mpumhanga said for the 2018-19 season only 10 000 hectares had registered with 1200 having been put under contract for the command programme.
One way of enhancing soya bean production is through organized demand promotion as done by the United Refinery Limited (URL) has unveiled a soya bean out-growers alliance (SBOA).
Under the programme URL is targeting 7 500 hectares to produce 15 000mt of soya beans and has guaranteed uptake of the produce.