HARARE – Some cotton farmers who got free inputs from President’s Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Pfumvudza programme have chosen the most unorthodox way to pay back the Zimbabwean leader’s presumed benevolence through selling the agro-based inputs on the street with official reports placing the quantum of fertiliser that has been recovered at over 50,000 tonnes.
The government has been bankrolling the expensive exercise through treasury.
Recently, treasury set aside a whooping ZWL$77 billion in the 2023 budget to provide free seed and fertilisers to communal farmers under the presidential input scheme, also known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa.
Under the programme, at least 5,200 cotton growers are getting free inputs under government’s ambitious bid to increase the national yield and reduce massive hunger in the once breadbasket country.
In an interview Friday, Cottco acting accounting officer Munyaradzi Chikasha said the 2022/23 cropping season was under threat from some beneficiaries of the government free scheme who have chosen the easy route to getting money through selling the inputs.
“We have faced a serious challenge this season, in that farmers are selling fertilisers.
“As you are aware, there is a serious shortage of fertiliser in the country and what most unscrupulous buyers from towns have resorted to is going out there to buy fertiliser from farmers.
“They are paying as little as $6 per 50kg bag. Farmers are tempted to sell their fertilisers. They are being misinformed that they do not require basal fertiliser for their farming operations, which is not correct.
“To date, as Cottco, we have recovered in excess of 50 metric tonnes of basal fertiliser that had been sold by farmers. Most of these cases have been reported to the police.
“We have a number of these cases before the courts. We have a number of people that have been convicted and made to pay a fine,” he said.
Asked on how widespread the vice was, Chikasha said a lot of farmers all over the country were selling their fertilisers.
“It’s happening across all cotton growing areas – Gokwe, Muzarabani, Chiredzi, Mutare. It’s happening all over,” he said.
He dismissed the myth that fertiliser was not necessary in cotton production.
“In fact, we are experiencing very low yields in this country, as low as 300-400 kg per hectare which is not ideal for cotton.
“For cotton, we would expect at least 800kg per hectare. But our farmers are getting very low yields because some are being misled that fertiliser destroys their soil and it’s not necessary for them to apply basal fertiliser.
“So the farmers are then selling fertilisers to unscrupulous buyers.
“We are appealing to the farmers that they should use fertilisers that they are getting under the presidential input scheme, they should put it to good use. They will get better yields and therefore better returns,” he said.
The conduct is however not just for poor peasant farmers who would be desperate to get money to survive economic hardships.
Former agriculture deputy minister Douglas Karoro is currently on trial for allegedly stealing 700 bags of fertiliser, US$18 000 worth of maize seed and 5 000 vegetable seed kits from the Presidential inputs schemes in March this year before selling the inputs for personal gains.