Thursday, January 27, 2011

(ZIMPAPERS) Agric sector needs US$800m

Agric sector needs US$800m
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 22:30 Agriculture
Agriculture Reporter

THE agricultural sector requires a minimum of around US$800 million to effectively finance this summer and winter’s cropping programmes for both the smallholder and large scale sectors.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Mr Paul Zakariya said the US$22 million that Finance Minister Tendai Biti allocated to the sector was a far cry from what the sector needed.

In a bid to bridge the gap, Mr Zakariya said, ZFU was starting an input loan scheme involving fertiliser and seed houses alongside some companies in the private sector to help the farmers.

“Banks are still not able to adequately finance farmers as they do not have the capacity to extend long term loans that farmers need,” said Mr Zakariya in an interview on Monday.

“In fact, the Government should be prioritising agriculture when drawing the national budget so that the sector is adequately capitalised to boost productivity and throw a lifeline to other sectors through the provision of raw materials.”

He added that it was not proper for the country to be run on imported products while the local industry remained idle because of lack of raw materials.

Most raw materials, he said, should come from the agricultural sector if it were operating to capacity.

“Our input scheme has so far supported more than 10 000 farmers countrywide and more are still to benefit.

“Initially we were focusing on seed and basal fertilisers only but we have now started giving out Ammonium Nitrate (AN) fertiliser to those farmers who have been meeting their contractual obligations monthly.

“Farmers with good production records and those up to date with their payments have since started receiving AN under the scheme,” he said.

Mr Zakariya said the scheme involved giving farmer inputs for which he pays only 20 percent of the total cost and settles the balance in four months. This is done at national level and the farmers work in groups of 10 each.

“The scheme is on going and the only challenge we are facing at the moment involves some farmers failing to keep up with their instalments. They are sometimes erratic.

“Remember we are doing this with seed and fertiliser houses and some players in the private sector, people who are in business and need to recover money given out for them to fund other crops other than maize.

“We are now going into winter and there are no funds for the farmers, which forces farmers to rely on schemes like ours so those benefiting from them already must not abuse them.

“They must honour their obligations so that there is always some reserve from where we can draw funds to procure more inputs to help others,” said Mr Zakariya.

Groups in the communal lands have demonstrated that this type of facility is very good for them and have been policing each other and servicing their debts monthly without fail, observed Mr Zakariya.-The Herald

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