BEYOND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

Mozambique 2014 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to José Pacheco, Minister of Agriculture, on research, food security, and agricultural extension plans.

José Pacheco
BIOGRAPHY
José Pacheco has been Minister of Agriculture since October 11, 2010. He was born in 1958 in Ampara, Sofala Province. Prior to becoming Minister of Agriculture, he served as Minister of the Interior from 2005 to 2009. Previously, he was Governor of Cabo Delgado from 1998 to 2005 and Vice-Minister of Agriculture from 1995-1998. From 1990-1995, he served as the National Director for Rural Development and from 1981-1990, he was the Provincial Agriculture Director for Zambeze Province. He is a certified Agricultural Technology Engineer. He attended Wye College, University of London, and the universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin-Madison.

How would you characterize the importance of agriculture to the Mozambican economy?

Agriculture is, and will remain, the cornerstone of the economic and social development of Mozambique. It is important not only because of the volume of food provided by agriculture, but also because of the contribution of this sector to GDP, which is estimated at around 24%. This contribution may decline because of the urgency to exploit natural resources, such as gas and coal; however, it will remain significant. Agriculture in Mozambique not only meets domestic demand, but also satisfies export orders. Its importance has led the government to create a strategic investment plan for the agrarian market. Our main goal is to reach stable levels of food consumption and nutrition. The implementation of this strategic plan respects production in Mozambique, the existing infrastructure, and the market opportunities that arise both within the country and abroad. We have six producers: Maputo and Limpopo Valley in the south, the Beira Corridor and Zambeze Valley in central Mozambique, and the Nacala and Pemba corridors in the north of the country. We have partnerships in these areas, the most developed and solid being that with Japan and Brazil. The country must now establish a foundation for agricultural research, an area in which Brazil has long experience under the auspices of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). Mozambique also needs to develop the basis for technology transfer, and draft a plan related to integrated development in the north of the country. Each of the corridors produces a specific variety of products for sale to the local market and for export. Currently, we are self-sufficient in certain products essential for healthy nutrition. It has turned Mozambique into an exporting country from one that formerly received aid from other nations.

How is the government balancing efforts to promote the commercial side of agriculture and maintain food security?

It is important to remember that the priority of the strategic plan created to develop the agrarian sector is to ensure that subsistence producers can become business-oriented producers through the utilization of technology. Low-income producers can grow from producing one ton per hectare to five, six, or even higher tonnage per hectare when provided with high-quality seeds, technology, and knowledge of how to prepare the soil. This is already happening. If we look at the Limpopo Corridor, we note that the rice producers being assisted by this plan are producing five tons of rice per hectare. These producers came from a subsistence system to become business-oriented farmers. Moreover, private-sector participation, be it internal or from abroad, is also welcome. Adequate investment laws in place will ensure responsible investment. Those wishing to invest in food products must promote agriculture by signing contracts with producers across around 40% of the area in question. The investor thereby promotes, supports, and then buys what is produced by the local farmers in a core area 40% of which needs to be productive. And where products other than food-crops are produced, at least 10% of the total area must increase its agriculture yield in line with local communities. For example, with an investment in a forest of 1,000 hectares, 100 hectares must be made available for food production, and people from local communities must be hired to work on 300 hectares.

What is the appeal of Mozambique as a destination for agriculture investment?

In agriculture, our largest foreign investors are from South Africa and Portugal. Chinese investors also form a sizeable part of the group. We have excellent ecological conditions and a plentiful water supply fed by 35 rivers. Mozambique has excellent soil and a hospitable and hardworking population that is capable of making a huge contribution to the food industry.

What efforts is the government making to ensure that farmers have access to technology and agricultural extension programs?

We are reinforcing agrarian research and the expansion of this sector. The technology transfer system in Mozambique is based on demonstration. We need to promote the technology available in agriculture, cattle farming, and forestry by allowing agricultural workers to examine and compare them in a hands-on fashion. Only in this manner can they appreciate fully just how technology can be directly incorporated into agribusiness. Farmers also learn on the job, where certain companies and teach the technical and commercial rules established by these enterprises. They have a predetermined area in which to work, ranging from 0.5 to 2 hectares, and learn to manage it effectively. Once they have done so, they receive a larger area to manage commercially as an agrarian professional. Today, 1,200 people offer such demonstrations nationwide, while 5,000 people are productively engaged in the agribusiness. Annual prizes are awarded to the most effective producers by the President of the Republic. There are five categories in which we distribute prizes: best producer of the year, best female producer, best young producer, for those under 35 years of age, as well as prizes for largest expansion registered, and best researcher.

What are your agricultural priorities for the next 12 months?

Our main overall priority for agriculture over the next 12 months is to give a clear sign for agro-processing. We have been negotiating with Brazil in relation to a program geared at increasing food security, allowing us to invest $100 million in equipment for processing and maintenance. Yet while our greatest need is to develop the agro-industry, unfortunately, we still face the problem of production. A well-developed agro-industry would enable us to solve this issue, and to generate new jobs and higher profitability.