Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Farmers contracted under the Special Maize Import Substitution Programme, commonly known as Command Agriculture, have so far repaid $67 million towards settling the cost of inputs availed to them under the scheme, Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Government availed inputs worth $192 million through the scheme. Acting President Mnangagwa gave the update during a tour of farms under Command Wheat in Mashonaland East Province yesterday.
VP Mnangagwa was accompanied by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, technical committee chairperson Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, Mashonaland East Minister of State Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr Ringson Chitsiko, among others.
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The team visited Rhodes Farm owned by Mr Kuda Kudenga, Mr Cephas Monda’s Chakadenga Farm and Howgate Farm that’s being run by a cooperative.
Acting President Mnangagwa urged beneficiaries of Government schemes like Command Agriculture and the Presidential Well Wishers Agriculture Inputs Scheme to develop a culture of accountability by using the inputs productively.
He said farmers should be honest and desist from lying on the yields they got to evade repayment of loans as the Command Agriculture taskforce had knowledgeable experts.
VP Mnangagwa said the Command Wheat programme was another success story.
“We are very excited as the Food and Nutrition Cluster in terms of what is happening. We have heard Minister Ambrose Mutinhiri saying last winter they only had 2 000 hectares under wheat and as a result of intervention by Command Wheat programme they now have over 8 000 hectares,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“Under Command Agriculture everything is provided for but farmers should not abuse the inputs. The farmers we have visited so far expect more than eight tonnes per hectare. This is adequate to cover the inputs they have taken,” he said.
The farmers will be able to pay for the inputs that they have received and a huge surplus will remain with them. So far farmers who have delivered the maize to the GMB have repaid $67 million,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa said the country should be able to produce sufficient wheat to meet THE national demand of 400 000 tonnes in three to five years time.
“Last year we had 15 000 hectares of wheat countrywide and this time we have 44 000 hectares.
“We believe with our programme of supplying farm machinery to farmers next winter we are definitely going to grow beyond 60 000 hectares of wheat,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa also encouraged farmers to grow soyabeans. He said Government was considering reviewing the producer price upwards. Government used to buy soyabeans at $500 per tonne and recently reviewed the price to $610 per tonne.
The Herald is reliably informed that the new price will be set between $770 and $780 per tonne. VP Mnangagwa said most farmers preferred maize to soyabeans as they felt it was more profitable.
“Some farmers realise that if they grow soyabeans they get four tonnes per hectare and if they grow maize they get eight tonnes. This means they will get more profit from growing maize. So we are going to review the price of soyabeans to strike a balance between the two crops.”
Speaking during the tour, Minister Made said Government did not have foreign currency to continue importing soyabeans and wanted to motivate farmers to grow the crop by offering better prices.
“We do not have foreign currency to continue importing soyabeans when we have the land to produce the crop. The crop requires irrigation especially at first and we are aware farmers require irrigation facilities. Irrigation development is going to be a major programme,” he said.
“We also encourage farmers to pay back loans. We should be determined in paying back loans or even paying deposits,” he said. Minister Mutinhiri said Command Agriculture was a huge successful although there were challenges.
“We had challenges in summer such as late distribution of inputs but this improved during the wheat programme as most farmers accessed inputs early,” he said.