Cross-sectional data of 2008 from smallholder farmers in the Mazowe District reveals a trend in maize production in the communal areas of Zimbabwe which suggests trade-offs between agricultural production of food crops, mainly maize, which is price regulated and production of non price regulated cash crops. An average maize yield of 1.6 tonnes per hectare, calculated from the households’ production data was used to categorize farmers into high and low performers. Low performers, who constituted 54% of the farmers, had a yield below the average yield per hectare, and 46% of the farmers, the high performers obtained yields above the mean yield per hectare. Even though cotton, a cash crop, had a higher average gross margin per hectare than maize, the net returns per dollar spent (average gross margin per total variable cost) was higher for maize than for cotton. The paper concludes that maize market reform processes in Zimbabwe were proving to be promoting cash rather than food crop production in the smallholder farming sector. The implication for the observed decline in maize production is that the decontrol of maize needs to be adopted to give farmers incentive to continue and increase production levels of maize.
Key words: Market reforms, household, food self-sufficiency, viability, gross margin analysis, smallholder, Zimbabwe.
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