Government plans to boost agricultural production through facilitation of farmers’ partnerships with financial institutions, rolling out revised 99-year leases and dealing with price distortions, according to Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube.
His pronouncements buttresses President Mnangagwa’s declaration that the country’s economic future will be anchored mainly on sustained agricultural and mining production.
Presenting his US$8,16 billion 2019 National Budget last week themed “Austerity for Prosperity”, Minister Ncube said no country prospered without guaranteeing food security to its people.
“Mr Speaker Sir, development and transformation of the country is, to a larger extent dependent on our capacity and ability to produce and attain food security,” he said.
“Furthermore, agriculture is a critical sector, which sustains the rest of industry and contributes significantly to livelihoods, employment and export earnings for the country.
“Therefore, the 2019 Budget prioritises support through facilitation of partnership with financial institutions in credit financing to our farmers under Government schemes and contract farming as well as support to vulnerable households.”
The country has vast swathes of underutilised water bodies, but the majority of farmers lack capital to install mechanised irrigation facilities to ensure high production all year round.
To that regard, Minister Ncube said, “the Budget supports irrigation development, mechanisation and subsidy arrangements in grain marketing”.
“The other specific measures are as follows: Roll out the revised 99- year-lease to facilitate private sector financing to the rest of the farmers; adopt measures that address low productivity in agriculture, including addressing land utilisation and dealing with price distortions by benchmarking to import parity,” he said.
“Finalise setting up of a Commodities Exchange, hence opening up space to private sector players, thus shifting the burden from fiscus; implement a robust loan recovery system to promote rollover of financing; restructure the Grain Marketing Board and separate accounts between Strategic Grain Reserve and commercial activities, while safeguarding food security and price stability.”
Minister Ncube said some key policy decisions to ensure high production of food and cash crops included the “observance of the rule of law, property rights and (Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements) BIPPAs; promoting outgrower schemes by the private sector and crowding in” financial institutions.
He said Government was committed to put to rest compensation of some white former commercial farmers whose land was allocated to over 300 000 landless indigenous people following the highly successful land reform programme.
The new beneficiaries of the land have not put Government to shame as they have under difficult circumstances this season, broke former tobacco farmers sales records by hitting the 238 million kg mark.
Before the land reform programme at least 70 percent of the country’s arable land was controlled by about 4 000 white farmers, while the majority blacks were crowded in dry, rocky and mountainous places.
Minister Ncube revealed in the interim that the 2019 Budget had availed US$53 million towards payment of compensation to former white farm owners, whose disbursement will be targeted.
“Government is committed to finalising the issue of compensation to former white farm owners who were affected by the Land Reform Programme, in accordance with the country’s law and commitments under the various bilateral agreements and the Constitution,” he said.
“Government has put in place structures to determine the extent of Government’s obligations. This work is ongoing and will be finalised in the next few months.
“Cognisance is being given to the fact that the resources required to compensate and put closure to this important issue, are obviously beyond the capacity of the fiscus. In this regard, various mobilisation strategies and finance mechanisms are being explored in consultation with all stakeholders.”