Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Government has earmarked $2,8 billion for Command Agriculture, which will extend the facility by another year and result in the production of 210 000 hectares of maize and 30 000 hectares of soyabeans during the 2019/20 summer cropping season.
Presenting his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review and Supplementary Budget Statement last Thursday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said the programme will only benefit farmers with good track records of repaying loans and producing high yields.
“Ordinarily, agricultural programmes outside the Vulnerable Inputs Support Scheme are best supported by private financing given budgetary constraints,” he said.
“However, given last year’s drought, the capacity of our ‘infant’ farmers has been compromised, necessitating further Government support through loan financing arrangements, which include private sector players.
“As a result, Government is extending the programme for another year to restore food security. The programme targets 210 000 hectares under maize and 30 000 hectares under soyabeans at a cost of $2,8 billion.
“Accordingly, the supplementary budget is making an additional provision of $1,03 billion to kick-start the programme. To close the loopholes during the forthcoming agriculture season, Government is adopting a targeted approach, which selects exclusively farmers with a track record of honouring their loan obligations from previous programmes and have a history of producing high yields.
“The selection of farmers will be done in a transparent way and measures will be put in place to recover all the loans.”
Minister Ncube said Government was this year targeting to support 640 000 hectares of grain crops that include maize, sorghum and pearl millet under the Vulnerable Households Inputs Support Scheme.
“For the 2019/20 agriculture season, the Supplementary Budget is proposing an additional $437 million for grain inputs (maize, sorghum and pearl millet),” he said.
The scheme will also include sugar and soya beans seed.
“The inputs will comprise of seed, compound D and top dressing, all for a targeted area of 640 000 hectares.”
Government will also support 200 000 hectares of cotton to sustain recovery of the sector. The scheme will be supported to the tune of $213 million.
“Beneficiaries of the programme will be selected based on their repayment track record and their delivery record to Cottco,” said Minister Ncube.
“Cognisant of the prevailing severe drought and the need to revive the agriculture sector, Government will extend support towards the agriculture sector during the 2019/20 agriculture season, while nurturing the private sector to play a greater role in subsequent years.
“As a result, the 2019 Mid-Term Review is setting aside $1,67 billion towards support of strategic crops of grain, soyabeans and cotton under the following programmes.”
Meanwhile, farmers have started preparing for the 2019/20 season.
The seed industry is expecting 39 000 tonnes of certified maize seed on the market.
Farmers usually require between 35 000 and 40 000 tonnes of maize seed, but this varies depending on demand.