Government will not accede to transferability of land because its ownership and farming are two distinctive items that should be separated, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Anxious Masuka said farming was a business enterprise where one did not need to own land in order to be productive.
He said viability of farming was determined by project proposal and not whether one owned the land or not.
Minister Masuka said this yesterday while giving oral evidence before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Lands and Agriculture chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu-PF).
The committee wanted the Minister to outline it’s vision to transform agriculture and had asked him what Government was doing to deal with the issue of title on land as requested by financial institutions who were refused to recognise 99-year leases arguing they were not bankable.
“Land is vested in the President and cannot be transferred because its ownership is not a measure of productivity. I think the issue of title deeds is taken out of context.
“I have often said you do not need to own a building in order to operate it. If you want to do business you can rent, you don’t need to own a house. Everyone seem to be saying I need to own the land in order to farm. That is a wrong approach to farming. The land is vested in the President for the right reasons,” said Minister Masuka.
“Land ownership and farming are different. Farming is a business which happens on land, so the two are separate and often we think they are not. There must be a distinction. There is not necessarily a link between land ownership and the transfer of land.
“The land is not transferable because it is vested in the President and the occupier is given a lease in form of a permit if you are A1 or offer letter if it is A2 Model and if you have shown production or productivity you are given a 99-year lease. These are tenure documents on State land, it is not transferable.”
He said Government felt that the 99-year leases were bankable despite the decision by the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe rejecting them insisting on title that would result on transferable title on land.
He said negotiations with financial institutions would continue, but they had revived the Agriculture Financing Corporation to provide funding to agriculture.
“We have taken this deliberate step to ensure that the agriculture space can be adequately funded. In fact in terms of construction of AFC, we are saying the viability of any entity depends on the viability of the project proposal not on who is on the piece of land or tenure document. That is where we are going and I hope that banks will join us,” said Minister Masuka.
Turning to 99-year leases, Minister Masuka said Government had issues 400 leases to date out of 18 000 potential farmers requiring the document, but said more will be issued.
Turning to tobacco pricing, Minister Masuka conceded that less farmers are using the auction floors compared to contract as the latter now constitute about 95 percent.
This was despite the fact that it is auction floor price that influenced the price of contract farming.
“So the auction tobacco is now too small to be representative in terms of the price. What now prevails at the contract system is unrelated to auction system. So in terms of Government tobacco transformation strategy we want to change this scenario in the next five years.
“We want 70 percent of the production costs to be denominated in Zimbabwean dollar and once that happens contractors can no longer say that we are bringing money from outside the country and hence this should be the differentials in the pricing system,” said Minister Masuka.