233 000ha con­tracted un­der Com­mand Agric

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - BUSINESS - Martin Kadzere

GOVERN­MENT has con­tracted over 200 000 hectares of maize and 33 000 hectares of soy­abean un­der Com­mand Agri­cul­ture as prepa­ra­tions for this sea­son gather pace, ac­cord­ing to Deputy Chief Sec­re­tary in the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent and Cab­i­net Mr Justin Mu­pamhanga.

Mr Mu­pamhanga, who is also chair­man of the In­te­grated Com­mand Agri­cul­ture Task­force, said the maize hec­tarage is slightly above what was con­tracted last year.

Launched two sea­sons ago, Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, which has been ex­panded to in­clude live­stock, has been lauded for stim­u­lat­ing farm out­put.

Zim­babwe has be­come self-suf­fi­cient in terms of maize — the coun­try’s sta­ple — as a re­sult of in­creased pro­duc­tion.

“Ef­forts are un­der­way to en­sure that farm­ers get crit­i­cal in­puts on time,” said Mr Mu­pamhanga.

How­ever, he could not be drawn into dis­clos­ing the amount ear­marked for this sea­son. Mr Mu­pamhanga said the pro­gramme has been a huge suc­cess.

“Many of the places that used to stay fal­low are be­ing utilised and the pro­gramme has been suc­cess­ful. Huge pro­duc­tion of maize in the past two years has ban­ished hunger,” he said.

Lands, Agri­cul­ture, Wa­ter, Cli­mate and Ru­ral Re­set­tle­ment Deputy Min­is­ter Dou­glas Karoro also said Com­mand Agri­cul­ture has been a huge suc­cess as it has stim­u­lated pro­duc­tiv­ity on most farms.

How­ever, while the pro­gramme has se­cured Zim­babwe’s food se­cu­rity, crit­ics say it is time to con­duct its cost ben­e­fit anal­y­sis.

Un­der Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, in­puts such as fer­tilis­ers and seed are pro­cured by pri­vate in­vestors and availed to farm­ers. The debt is guar­an­teed by the Govern­ment. When farm­ers sell their pro­duce, part of the pro­ceeds are used to pay the debt.

In his pre-bud­get state­ment, Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter, Pro­fes­sor Mthuli Ncube ex­pressed con­cern over the farm­ers’ high de­fault rate. Govern­ment has had to pick up huge debts that arose from fail­ure by ben­e­fi­cia­ries to re­pay.

Of the $1,8 bil­lion Trea­sury Bills is­sued be­tween Jan­uary and July, about $361 mil­lion went to­wards agri­cul­ture.

“While the TBs is­sued to­wards Com­mand Agri­cul­ture are a pri­vate debt, in view of the high de­fault rate by farm­ers un­der the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, it ef­fec­tively means that it is a Govern­ment ex­pen­di­ture,” Prof Ncube said.

“In view of the im­pli­ca­tions of the cur­rent model of fi­nanc­ing, there is need to re­visit the mech­a­nism, with a view of less­en­ing the fis­cal bur­den which has a desta­bil­is­ing ef­fect on the macro-eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.”

Mr Mu­pamhanga said Govern­ment will con­tinue putting in place mea­sures to re­cover the debts.

“In prin­ci­ple, Com­mand Agri­cul­ture is a cost re­cov­ery pro­gramme.”

Sakunda Hold­ings re­mains the ma­jor fi­nancier of the Com­mand Agri­cul­ture pro­gramme. Some fi­nanciers have also joined the pro­gramme. Th­ese in­clude listed Na­tional Foods Lim­ited and North­ern Farm­ing. Homelink Group, a sub­sidiary of the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe (RBZ), has also joined Com­mand Agri­cul­ture with a $6 mil­lion fa­cil­ity fo­cus­ing on beef pro­duc­tion while Irvine’s Zim­babwe is also sup­port­ing the poul­try pro­grammes.

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