Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Some farmers have lost their property to banks and contractors after failing to pay back loans, their representative bodies have confirmed. The farmers are losing houses, tractors, carts, roofing materials and livestock for not paying back loans.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya said although he could not provide ready statistics, the union had received several reports on farmers who were losing properties to contractors and banks.
He said this was most common in the cotton sector where ginners were attaching property without legal documents.
“We have approached lawyers for assistance. Most farmers who are losing their property could not settle their debts due to low yields as a result of poor rains.
“Besides that, farmers are not making that much money from farming because of poor marketing arrangements especially for grain.
“It is not in the interest of farmers to default on payments and there has to be an alternative way of recovering costs other than attachment of property. Taking away tractors and property will only destroy the farmers,’’ business base,” he said.
“We encourage farmers to go to banks and negotiate on repayment terms. There should be dialogue between the two parties,” he said.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo said her organisation was overwhelmed with reports from farmers losing their property.
“A number of farmers are losing their houses after failing to settle their loans. Some of the farmers affected are the ones who borrowed money from banks between 2009 and 2010. Some of them were affected by the Grain Marketing Board delayed payments.
“The loans accrued high interests and farmers could not settle the bills,” she said. She however could not give statistics of the affected farmers.
Mrs Nkomo urged Government to rescue farmers from the situation.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wonder Chabikwa said most cotton farmers contributed about 60 percent of the total production costs and it was unfair for contractors to attach property.
“Contractors’ agribusiness staff usually monitor production of the crop and are aware of the poor season, but companies go on to attach property. Both parties should share costs. We are still compiling the reports and this year the situation is serious,” he said.
Bankers have on several occasions said they were willing to fund tobacco production which has an organised marketing system where they can easily recover their costs.