Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
The Command Agriculture special programme, whose financing model was reconfigured this season to eliminate cheating and ensure loan repayment, is working well in terms of the provision of funds by banks and the private sector, with banks approving a wide range of contracts.
Of special importance is a core of 2 252 farmers contracted to grow maize under irrigation on 56 043 hectares, ensuring a basic harvest of around half Zimbabwe’s requirements, regardless of the weather.
This irrigated maize is part of the total 255 588ha registered by Agritex for maize.
Another 45 608ha were registered for soya bean, the crucial raw material for cooking oil, in the current cropping season.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said in an interview that the success of the Command Agriculture Programme under a new funding model where the Government provides guarantees to banks, will see such guarantees being extended to other sectors of the economy such as mining and manufacturing.
“In Command Agriculture, wherein there is a Government guarantee, and the farmers get their support from CBZ and Agribank, the scheme is working well,” said Prof Ncube.
“Farmers are able to access the credit, so there is one scheme that is working well and we are very pleased that we are doing it for the first time, and that it has worked. We have seen that the partnership around food security is working between Government and the private sector.”
Prof Ncube said as at December 19 last year, 255 588ha were registered by Agritex for maize production against a target of 210 000ha.
Of the 224 917ha contracted and recommended for contract by CBZ, only 188 878ha were contracted under maize production.
Prof Ncube said of the hectarage contracted, 2 252 farmers were contracted to plant maize on 56 043ha of land under irrigation, ensuring a harvest regardless of rainfall.
As at December 9, 2019, about 43 083ha had been tilled, while 15 959ha had been planted.
Farmers said they could not plant maize on the entire hectarage due to a shortage of inputs and erratic rains, especially in the first half of the season.
Some farmers had challenges accessing tractors and diesel, or both, for tillage.
In terms of soya bean, 45 608ha were registered by Agritex, of which 40 517ha were recommended for contracts by CBZ.
Of the 40 517ha recommended, around 35 890ha were finally contracted for soya.
Prof Ncube said in terms of soya beans, 6 371ha had been tilled by December and 377ha had been planted against a target of 30 000ha.
“We understand this is on account of the shortage of inputs, erratic rain patterns, as well as difficulties for
farmers to access tillage,” he said.
Significant rains have started falling in most parts of the country and there is renewed hope that a decent harvest could still be achieved, especially if farmers who had not planted last year, adopt short-season varieties.
Under the reconstituted Command Agriculture Programme, Government stopped funding the scheme directly and roped in banks and the private sector.
Government only provides guarantees.
The decision followed the realisation that Government did not have proper structures to pursue funds extended to farmers, an area that banks have a lot of expertise, to ensure the loans are repaid.