Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has expanded the list of import duty and Value Added Tax-free agricultural equipment, a move described by stakeholders as critical to transforming the sector for economic growth and prosperity.
The exemption of some of the agricultural machinery from paying duty comes at a time when preparations for the 2020/21 summer cropping season have started, with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement rolling out the Agricultural Recovery Plan aimed at boosting productivity.
Zimra yesterday announced that machinery such as manure spreaders, fertiliser distributors, hay balers, combine harvesters, machines for sorting eggs, machines for preparing animal feed, tractors and incubators for poultry, will be imported duty and VAT free.
Companies and individuals can also import wheat seed, potassium chloride or sulphate, cattle, live pure breeding pigs, goats and sheep, duty free.
In the statement, Zimra said when goods were imported for commercial purposes, importers were required to engage clearing agents registered with the tax collector.
Private individuals benefiting from the duty-free importations could clear commercial goods up to a value of US$1 000 over the counter without the need to engage the services of a clearing agent.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said the move was commendable as agricultural equipment was critical for both crops and livestock sub-sectors.
“Our ministry has rolled out the Agricultural Recovery Plan and this decision is greatly welcome since it supports our efforts to grow the agricultural sector by easing the means of production and lowering the burden on our farmers who desperately need this modern equipment and technology. It also gives relief to those who are importing the much-needed livestock aimed at improving our genetics.
“Value addition as well as mechanisation are both critical for our farmers to be sustainable. This type of equipment industrialises and modernises our agriculture through innovation development. Mechanisation, for example, leads to precision farming which maximises efficiencies, lowers post-harvest losses, and increases the profits that a farmer can make, amplifying the fact that farming is a business,” said Deputy Minister Haritatos.
Agricultural economist Mr Simba Muchena said the scrapping of duty on some farming equipment would enable farmers to access machinery at a lower cost and boost the mechanisation programme.
“It has been expensive for farmers to buy machinery, but without duty, it becomes affordable. This is a good move especially on machinery. There is need to strike a balance when it comes to the importation of seed and livestock.
“While we need to increase competition and ensure goods are affordable to farmers, there is need to preserve the germ plasm. We should be careful not to destroy our germ plasm,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union vice president, Mr Edward Dune, said latest development would go a long way in alleviating poverty as capital and direct costs would stabilise or decline.
“This is a move in the right direction. Our challenge is that sometimes the conventional platforms do not have access to foreign currency. Hopefully, farmers will have easy access to foreign currency so that they can import machinery and boost production and alleviate poverty,” he said.
Tobacco Industry Development Support Institute director, Mr Jeffrey Takawira, said Government was making huge efforts to revive the agriculture sector by incentivising the importation of machinery.
“The new structure will make imports cheaper, as long as suppliers refrain from their appetite of overcharging. Inputs will become readily available. This is also good news for those with free funds as they can freely bring in inputs,” he said.