Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GOVERNMENT has created an agricultural equipment leasing unit within Agribank to assist farmers with farming equipment at a low fee to enhance production on farms.
The Government has also sourced 5 000 motorbikes for agricultural extension officers so that they are mobile to support farmers with proper farming methods to increase yields.
Farmers including those who benefitted under the agrarian reform have been facing difficulties in accessing finance to purchase their own farming equipment such as combine harvesters thereby affecting crop production.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube said this while accompanying Vice President Constantino Chiwenga during a tour of sub-division six of Loozani Farm just outside Kwekwe on Friday.
The farm is owned by A2 farmer Mrs Tsitsi Mbudzi, who has 40 hectares under wheat and 60 hectares under maize.
Prof Ncube said Government is doing everything in its power to support farmers through various programmes.
“The best way to support the commercial aspect of agriculture from the farm to the plate is supporting or having agriculture infrastructure like dams. Water infrastructure is critical as well as energy. We are supporting famers with equipment for planting and harvesting, tractors, combine harvesters. This is very necessary and we as Government, we have decided to create an agricultural equipment leasing unit within Agribank that is going to house our infrastructure like combine harvesters so that farmers can lease these kind of equipment and do what they know best which is food production,” he said.
“The farmers can approach the bank and lease the equipment at affordable fees. They can do it in clusters. Vice President Chiwenga has promised Mai Mbudzi a combine harvester so that she takes her maize to GMB. At the GMB we will add 30 percent upon delivery so that the price will enable her and other farmers to go back on the land and make a profit.”.
Prof Ncube said farmers need loans at affordable interest rates.
“That is why under winter wheat or command agriculture. We have crowded banks because Government has realised that on our own we can’t fund every farmer and we have brought in the banks and the best way that the banks sleep well at night and just worry about defaults is extending a guarantee from Government through treasury,” said Prof Ncube.
“Then they can lend to the farmers comfortably. And also, those of you who are worried about the quality of the 99 -year lease, you need not worry, stop worrying about that, there is a guarantee so that you don’t have to worry about the quality of collateral.”
He said Government has further enhanced farmer support through the $6,1 billion Covid -19 stimulus programme.
“We have got about $3.2 billion for commercial agriculture and $2.9 billion for the Presidential Input scheme coming through in summer,” said Prof Ncube.
He said Government has also sourced 5 000 motorbikes for agriculture extension officers so that they are mobile enough to support farmers on the field.
“So, we are talking of Government commitment to seeing a surge in production from the farm to the plate involving funding, loans, which are accessed at affordable interest rates and having a mobile agricultural extension officer to assist the farmer. The 5 000 motorbikes for the extension officers,” said Prof Ncube.
He said according to the Ministry of Agriculture the country might as well have a good season for winter wheat as it had in 2016/ 2017 season.
“That will be very good indeed as that we reduce the demand for foreign currency for the importation of wheat for bread and other things,” said Prof Ncube.