Friday, November 04, 2011

(HERALD) ZCFU, farmers clash over soyabean contract-farming project

ZCFU, farmers clash over soyabean contract-farming project
Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00
Agriculture Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union has come under fire for allegedly duping farmers into joining non-existent soyabean contract-farming project.
According to farmers, ZCFU had managed to convince them that they would be assisted in soyabean production only to be told at the last minute to approach banks for funding.

Zvimba North Farmers Association president, Mr Chamunorwa Chibondo, said on Tuesday that farmers who were interested in the soyabean production were asked to pay a joining fee of US$150, US$50 inspection fee and US$35 per hectare for administration.

"We were interested in the project and paid the fees. A single person who covered all farmers in a day did the inspection," he said.

After the inspections the farmers expected to start receiving inputs only to be told the scheme had changed as farmers were advised to approach banks, as individuals, for loans.

Mr Chibondo said ZB bank, which was recommended by ZCFU, did not accept individual farmers but instead preferred to deal with groups.

"We had come to collect the inputs at the ZCFU head office only to be told of the new arrangement. There is no way we can get funding from banks, as they require collateral. Where do we get the collateral," he said.

The farmers said the process of applying for cash from banks took long and this would affect their farming activities. Another farmer said: "Some of us had already done land preparations and we are now being told to start applying to banks. The process takes long and there is no guarantee we will get the funds. Even if we get the money the season will already be gone and this will obviously affect our yields."

Some of the farmers demanded their money back accusing ZCFU of daylight robbery for the union to collect money from farmers only to abandon them at the critical moment.

In July, ZCFU announced that it had engaged the private sector and input suppliers in rolling out a soyabean project expected to cover 35 000 hectares countrywide. The union promised that it was going to provide inputs such as seed, fertilisers and herbicides as well link farmers with markets.

Farmers involved in the project that was to be evenly distributed throughout the country were also promised with assistance in acquiring farm implements.

ZCFU official, Mr Shadreck Tsimba on Tuesday confirmed that farmers were not happy with the way the project had been handled and said discussions were underway to solve the problem.

"There has been a small misunderstanding since farmers are not happy with the new set up. We have not reached to a conclusion as negotiations are underway," he said. Mr Tsimba said this was not the first time ZCFU had run a contract project.

"We had a wheat project, which went on well, but this one has brought problems as it was slightly different and currently we are engaging banks to address issues raised by farmers," he said.

Contract farming has become an answer to many farmers who do not have ready cash to finance their operations.

However, on some occasions farmers blame the contractors of providing inadequate inputs and yet demand the whole crop at the end of the season. On the other hand, contractors blame farmers for side marketing.

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