Command agriculture face collapse-Land Minister hint

ARDA TRECK Antelope Estate manager Mr Chinyai is dwarfed on part of the section under command agriculture as shows a sample of the mature maize cobs in Maphisa on Wednesday.
By: Nqobile Bhebhe ,Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s scheme– a private-sector-backed subsidy programme spearheaded by the Government face collapse as financial beneficiaries are reluctant to repay loans.

Authorities have issued a passionate plea to farmers to pay back millions of dollars advanced in loans as the default rate is high.

The high default rate is likely to force finders to withdraw their financial support, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri has hinted.

“We would like our farmers to repay loans, especially, under import substitution programme, Command Agriculture, so that the funders will be able to finance us in the coming seasons” appealed Shiri.

Shiri said farmers who don’t pay up loans “are letting ourselves down as the private sector which gives us money will withdraw its support”.

According to media reports, farmers who benefited from the scheme in 2017, only 60 percent of loans where repaid.

Government had to pay over $100 million to the  funders.

Reports further indicate that out of the 50 000 farmers contracted to produce maize under Command Agriculture, 33 percent fully paid their loan obligations, with 22 percent having partially paid their obligations, while recoveries from others are being made as they deliver to the GMB.

Zimbabwe government has in the past rolled out several of food security initiatives meant to return the country to its former breadbasket status, but all failed.

In 2000, an input support scheme was unveiled in which it gave free inputs to farmers for six consecutive years.

The plan failed partly because the Agriculture ministry did not receive the budget required and there was virtually nothing coming from the assisted farmers.

In 2004, government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe launched the productive sector facility where the RBZ provided financing to farmers at 25% interest rate per annum for food crop production. This came at a time interest rates were over 300%.

The facility had a six-month tenure for seasonal loans and an 18-month tenure for medium term loans. It failed dismally as well.

Operation Maguta/Inala/Food Security which focused on beef and crop production also failed. It was a separate entity from the ministry of agriculture and RBZ accorded it special payment and clearance arrangements.

There was gross abuse of this scheme by those in charge of the programme — most of whom were military people — resulting in genuine farmers being elbowed out of the programme. Inputs were diverted to the black market, sold and the money lined the pockets of the influential politicians.