Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has set aside ZW$1,67 billion to support the 2019/20 summer cropping season and called on the private sector to join hands so as to ensure food security in the country.
Presenting the 2019 Mid-Year Budget Review statement yesterday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the decision was in cognisant of the prevailing severe drought experienced in the last season and the need to revive the agriculture sector.
“Government will extend support towards the agriculture sector during the 2019/20 agriculture season, while nurturing the private sector to play a greater role in subsequent years.
“As a result, the 2019 Mid-Term Review is setting aside ZW$1,67 billion towards support of strategic crops of grain, soya beans and cotton under the following programmes,” he said.
Prof Ncube said Government was committed to continue supporting vulnerable households through an appropriate inputs scheme as a measure of ensuring improved yields. As such, he said in the proposed ZW$10,85 billion supplementary budget Government would set aside an additional ZW$437 million for grain inputs covering maize, sorghum and pearl millet.
The scheme will also include sugar and soya bean. Prof Ncube said the inputs will comprise seed, compound D and top dressing fertilisers, all for a targeted area of 640 000 hectares.
“A number of households in dry areas make a living out of cotton production. To sustain recovery in cotton production, $213 million is being set aside towards inputs for cotton for a targeted area of 200 000ha. Beneficiaries of the programme will be selected based on their repayment track record and their delivery record to Cottco,” he said.
On maize and soya beans programmes, Prof Ncube said generally, agricultural programmes outside the vulnerable inputs support scheme were best supported by private financing given budgetary constraints. However, he said given last year’s drought, the capacity of the “infant” farmers has been compromised, and thus necessitating further Government support through loan financing arrangements, which include private sector players.
“As a result, Government is extending the programme for another year to restore food security. The programme targets 210 000ha under maize and 30 000ha under soya beans at a cost of $2,8 billion. Accordingly, the supplementary budget is making an additional provision of $1,03 billion to kick-start the programme,” he said.
Prof Ncube said as part of the Government efforts to close the loopholes during the forthcoming agriculture season, Zimbabwe was adopting a targeted approach, which would exclusively select farmers with a track record of honouring their loan obligations from previous programmes and have a history of producing high yields.
He said the selection of farmers will be done in a transparent way and measures will be put in place to recover all the loans. Turning to domestic grain mobilisation in the 2019/20 season, the Finance Minister said maize and small grains output was expected at 852 000 tonnes, significantly below the annual national requirements estimated at 1,8 million tonnes.
“It is, therefore, prudent that Government prioritise local grain purchases in order to replenish stocks at GMB (Grain Marketing Board). However, in order to incentivise farmers to deliver, Government has reviewed maize producer prices upwards from $726 per tonne set earlier.
“GMB has also opened additional collection points in various provinces of the country to enhance grain mobilisation and reduce transport costs to the farmer,” he said, adding that the supplementary budget, therefore, provides $630 million for local grain purchases and logistics.
And to complement this, Government gazetted Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019, which bars any other person or institution other than GMB from buying maize from farmers.
“With a large grain deficit, Government has established necessary arrangements for grain importation and effective distribution.
“Towards this, the supplementary budget proposes to set aside $624 million, enough to cater for requirements up to December 2019,” said Prof Ncube. — @okazunga.