Editorial Comment: Together we can make farming viable

Editorial Comment: Together we can make farming viable Minister Chinamasa

A report in The Herald edition of yesterday carried what many farmers will consider good tidings as far as their farming business is concerned.

It is our fervent hope that finality has been reached on teething issues that have prevented resettled farmers from using their land titles for bank loans.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Tuesday that an agreement has now been reached between Government and bankers to make the historic 99-year lease titles bankable.

And yesterday, Minister Chinamasa said resources have been set aside to undertake remapping of resettlement land and carry out udits to pick out flaws.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) would also be used for remapping of farms to resolve or eliminate common disputes over farm boundaries.

As Government undertakes various initiatives to ensure productivity on the country’s farms, making 99-year leases bankable could not have come at a better time.

It means farmers, serious farmers at that, can now access funding from banks and turn their farming into a truly commercial business activity.

This, barring any unforeseen bottlenecks, will now be possible as farmers will be able to present their land tenure titles in exchange for bank loans.

Hopefully, consensus was reached on the method of valuation of the farms and the improvements a previous owner of the farm would have made.

The latest development is heartening because no serious or meaningful farming activity can be undertaken without access to adequate funding.

According to conservative estimates, Zimbabwe needs $2 billion to support agriculture annually, but is cash constrained to meet the requirement.

This is, however, despite the fact that agriculture is the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy, accounting for 16 percent of gross domestic product.

Agriculture accounts for an estimated 60 percent of raw materials needed in the manufacturing industry, which also makes the bulk of inputs it requires.

More graphically, tobacco, a crop grown from redistributed land, generates well in excess of half a billion dollars for Zimbabwe annually.

It is against this background that private sector participation, in this case the banks, plays a fundamental role in revamping and sustaining the sector.

Lack of certainty on security of tenure and transferability, over the years, stifled the Government’s efforts to make resettlement land productive.

Questions have lingered, especially among the banks, on how natural rules of commercial banking would come into play if farmers defaulted on loans.

Legally, land belonged to the State and could not be taken by banks or privately change hands for value, making land a dead asset or dead capital.

But the 99-year leases and permits for A1 farmers will create self-financing mechanism for farmers that would drive agricultural production.

Notably, the success of most previous predominantly white farmers hinged on easy and adequate access to funding, making farming a viable business.

The majority of farmers who acquired farms under Government’s fast track land reform programme have time and again been weighed down by lack of funding.

Because of that, production from these farms has been dismally poor, lending credence to the predicted doom by elements opposed to land redistribution.

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