Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
COTTON farmers are appealing to Government to extend support under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme beyond the 2018/19 farming season, if the facility is to make meaningful impact on both farmers and the sector.
The facility was launched by former President Robert Mugabe during the 2015/16 farming season, and was billed to run for three years.
Most farmers said withdrawing the free inputs facility after the 2018/19 season would affect them, as they were still recovering from the past few years where they had abandoned growing the crop due to low prices on the market.
Under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, cotton growers are given seed, fertiliser and chemicals for a hectare.
Farmers in Chiredzi told The Herald that the scheme was a noble initiative, as it was empowering them, but felt three years was too short.
Other farmers said while the programme was good, limiting inputs to one hectare was a disadvantage.
The farmers complained that they could not grow a free crop (unsponsored), since they could not access seed on the open market.
Jerera farmer Mr Dzidziso Mahosi said the programme was empowering farmers, but felt it was too early to be weaned off.
“During the first phase of the cotton support under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, many farmers were not yet certain and hesitated to join,” he said. “It was after last season’s success that many new farmers have come on board to benefit from the facility.
“If the programme is extended by at least two years, most farmers will be in a position to pay for the inputs. Now we feel it is too early.
“Cotton is grown in drier parts of the country where most crops do not do well; it is a mainstay of many communal farmers and it should be supported adequately.”
Magudu Range farmer Mr Clifford Gomba said this season was his first year to produce cotton under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme and it would be unfair for him to be weaned off.
“I joined the programme because I had seen its benefits,” he said. “I hope Government will continue supporting us until we can be able to fund ourselves. It will also be good if the individual package is extended from one hectare.”
The farmers said the Government facility was good as they were given inputs timeously.
Cotton production had been on the downfall over the past years due to unviable prices on the market.
Farmers also abandoned the crop, accusing merchants of giving them inadequate inputs and demanding the whole harvest at the end of the season.
On the other end, merchants complained of side marketing by the farmers.
Government had to intervene to fund cotton production to revive the cotton sector.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the farmers were right in asking for an extension of the inputs scheme.
“The Presidential Inputs Scheme cotton facility has helped farmers recover from the past years,” he said.
“Farmers require at least five years of support. We will lobby Government to consider extending the programme. The bulk of the cotton being produced will bring in foreign currency and if extended by at least two years, it will go a long way in improving farmers’ livelihoods and the economy.”
This season, 400 000 cotton farmers benefited from the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.