Maize growers boost: $1bn pay for command agriculture farmers


Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
FARMERS under the Command Agriculture Scheme will receive about $1 billion in combined payment for the maize output as Government moves to boost yields and achieve food security.

Zimbabwe hopes to produce surplus maize this season and reverse food imports, which have been a major resource drain in recent years.

The country consumes about 1.5 million metric tonnes of the grain per year but has been producing far less over the past few years, hence the imports.

A total of $500 million, sourced locally, has been channelled towards the Government-initiated command scheme this season and targets 400 000 hectares of land under maize.

Finance and Minister Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been urged to start mobilising sufficient resources to ensure timely payment of farmers under the scheme.

In its reflection in Parliament on the 2017 national budget policy last week, the Parliamentary Portfolio on Finance and Economic Development said the Command Agriculture Scheme was “a good initiative with the potential of reviving the whole agribusiness spectrum”.

It observed that there was a need to improve the timeliness in distribution of inputs to farmers so as to ensure the success of the scheme going forward and facilitate increased output.

“The Honourable Minister (Chinamasa) must put in place mechanisms to ensure that command agriculture farmers, whose payment will require approximately $1 billion, are paid in time to build confidence in the programme,” said the committee, which is led by Mr David Chapfika.

“The Government must provide the right institutional and legal framework that supports agricultural marketing and investments in irrigation. To mitigate against effects of relying on rain fed agriculture in the wake of climate change, Treasury should seriously consider supporting rainwater harvesting and irrigation development.”

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made is on record saying Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce surplus food without using genetically modified technology.

The grain milling industry has pledged to buy 800 000 metric of the command agriculture yield.

The Command Scheme has received overwhelming support from the private sector and stakeholders who include the millers, seed companies, fertiliser and chemical companies, farmers’ unions and the banking sector.

These players have thrown their weight behind the scheme and provided the required resources to ensure its success.

Having seen the success of the programme so far, the Government plans to extend the model to soya bean and wheat production where it is hoped that funding would also come from local sponsors who stand to benefit from the produce.

At the moment Zimbabwe imports much of its soya bean and wheat, which drain the scarce foreign exchange resources and increase the import bill. A similar model would also be implemented in the production of tobacco and cotton as well as livestock.

Experts say once agriculture takes off it will impact positively on the entire economic spectrum of the country including beneficiation, value addition, employment, downstream industry and technology.

Article Source: The Chronicle