233 000ha contracted under Command Agric
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.