Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Saturday, 14 April 2012 18:36
The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) has bemoaned the late introduction of the US$20 million Winter Wheat Scheme by Government, saying farmers are likely to miss next month’s planting deadline due to the red tape involved in accessing the funds.
Last week, Government unveiled the scheme which is expected to see wheat growers accessing vouchers from CBZ Bank. The vouchers should be produced before one can collect inputs from Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots.
ZFU executive director Mr Paul Zakariya welcomed the scheme, but called for the timely disbursement of funds.
“Effectively, Government via GMB, CBZ and wheat farmers have about 16 days to put their house in order, which seems impossible,” he said.
“Ideally, the country should be through with planning for wheat by February at the latest.”
Mr Zakariya advocated wide stakeholder consultations before the crafting and implementation of input support programmes.
He urged Zesa Holdings and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority to honour commitments to provide uninterrupted electricity and water respectively.
He also called on Government to explore the possibility of having critical service providers introduce concessionary rates for farmers, saying farmers are being forced to fork out US$700 to irrigate a hectare each month.
“It is not sustainable to have a farmer use US$2 800 to irrigate each hectare he has under wheat per season.
“Over the years, focus has been on providing farmers with subsidised inputs, but that is only part of the equation.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. It is, however, operating below capacity because of a lack of seriousness by those that are expected to support it.
“Farmers are ready to produce food for the nation, but have been badly let down by lack of support from the relevant stakeholders.”
Analysts note that the timely payment of farmers by the GMB is also critical in boosting wheat production.
Most farmers are yet to be paid for grain delivered last season.
Speaking at the launch of the Winter Wheat Scheme, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said the US$20 million allocated for the initiative should result in 26 280 hectares of land going under wheat.
“We are proposing that we target 26 280 hectares of winter wheat and the requirement is US$20 million. This targeted hectarage should give us a production of 75 000 metric tonnes,” he said.
Dr Made said the inputs will be distributed through the GMB at cost price as part of moves to prevent unscrupulous individuals from accessing subsidised inputs and then reselling them at exorbitant prices.
“Inputs would be accessed at cost price under a credit arrangement. The money as financed would be at a concessionary interest rate of 3 percent.
“We are trying to avoid arbitrage because there were some farmers who pick up the inputs and then resell them.
“Each participating farmer would receive a voucher from CBZ and upon receipt of that voucher delivered wheat for the previous season in order to access inputs.”