NEARLY US$1 billion has been earmarked for the support of crop and livestock production in the 2013/2014 farming season to ensure Zimbabwe reclaims its status as the bread basket of Southern Africa. The collapse of the inclusive Government following Zanu-PF’s resounding election victory seems to have unclogged funding streams with the financial sector expressing confidence in the new Government which yesterday announced a further US$161 million support to agriculture on top of the US$620 million that the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe mobilised and US$100 that the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe pumped into the sector last week.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday announced the US$161 million facility, which he said would be for the Government’s input support programme targeting 1,6 million communal, old resettled, small-scale (former purchase areas) and A1 farmers.
Minister Chinamasa made the announcement at a Press conference that was also attended by his Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development counterpart Dr Joseph Made, following agreements in Cabinet on supporting farmers in particular and agriculture in general.
He said the basic input package would comprise 10 kilogrammes maize/small grain seed, 50kg compound D fertiliser, 50kg ammonium nitrate fertiliser and 50kg lime to improve the quality of the soil.
The initiative resonates well with Zanu-PF’s pledge in the run-up to the July 31 harmonised elections to support farmers, grow and develop agriculture once elected into office.
To that end, US$157,9 million would go towards finance production and/or importation of inputs with US$39 084 000 for seed, US$50 483 500 for compound D fertiliser, US$56 997 500 for AN fertiliser and US$11 399 500 for lime.
Minister Chinamasa said US$530 000 would go towards the rehabilitation of the District Development Fund, while US$2,6 million has been earmarked to improve the handling capacity of the Grain Marketing Board.
But in implementing the programme, Minister Chinamasa said the Government was cognisant of the need to clear outstanding payments to producers for last year’s supplies.
“Hence, in addition to the input support programme, it is critical that attention is given to outstanding payments to input suppliers which stand at US$11,8 million arising from previous seasons.”
The Government would then disburse US$40 million towards fertiliser manufacturers for supplies required under the 2013/4 season agriculture input support programme.
Minister Chinamasa said Government had also secured US$120 million private sector support for the production of seed and fertiliser, which may need to be augmented by imports.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation in partnership with other donors, he said, had indicated readiness to partner Government with a US$19,25 million contribution targeting 77 800 farmers.
Minister Made said the 2013/14 season was the last season in which Government would provide direct input support to farmers as focus would now turn to subsidising manufacturers to lower input costs.
“For a long time we have been saying subsidising the manufacturers is the preferred form because it assists us as agriculture not to be involved in the day-to-day allocation of inputs to farmers.
“If we subsidise the manufacturers of inputs to lower the cost of production, the farmers will be able to purchase the inputs on their own. Also, if the farmers are paid timeously, they will at least be able to purchase their own input, that is how farming should be,” said Minister Made.
He said Cabinet agreed at Tuesday’s meeting that going forward the real anchor will be mechanisation and irrigation development to mitigate difficulties in terms of the staple crop, maize.
As such, focus will be on developing full-scale and supplementary irrigation for winter cropping.
Discussions are still in progress with the banking sector on how A2 and commercial farmers can be assisted amid indications that most agricultural financial facilities are being finalised.
“At the moment we have not yet concretised support to A2 farmers, but obviously some of them will make their own arrangements but we would like this arrangement to be more concrete so that banks tell us specifically what they will put to agriculture,” Minister Chinamasa said.