THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture will this week tour different agricultural colleges across the country to assess gaps in implementation of government’s command agriculture, as well as the crop yields under the programme.
Source: Command agriculture under scrutiny – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 13, 2017
By VENERANDA LANGA
Committee chairperson Christopher Chitindi yesterday told NewsDay that the committee decided to visit agricultural colleges after oral evidence was given before the committee by Agriculture ministry secretary Ringson Chitsiko, who disclosed that the colleges were using obsolete equipment.
The committee will visit Kushinga Phikelela in Marondera, Gwebi College in Chinhoyi, Rio Tinto College in Kwekwe, Mlezu College in Gweru, Esigodini College in Umzingwane and Mushangashe in Masvingo.
“The committee will assess the capacity of agricultural colleges, after we were told that they were experiencing financial challenges in implementing command agriculture, as well as that they are using obsolete equipment,” Chitindi said.
“We are also going to visit farmers contracted under the command agriculture to find out if they received inputs, because there have been complaints that they have been coming very late.”
The Muzarabani South MP said farmers have complained that in the last farming season the inputs were delivered as late as October.
“As a committee, we feel that this time the government must sign contracts with farmers under the command agriculture on time so that they plant early. The farmer who is contracted to do 10 hectares must also be given inputs that are enough for those 10 hectares, because failure to distribute inputs early is hard-hitting on farmers,” he said.
Chitindi said the committee was also disturbed that the government has not yet signed contracts with farmers on the winter wheat programme, arguing this would negatively affect yields.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made recently appeared before Parliament, where he told the House that 62% of land under command agriculture has the staple maize crop.
Made said fuel had been adequately distributed to farmers, however, adding the biggest problem was the shortage of fertilisers.
The Agriculture minister said the country will continue to import fertilisers until Sable Chemicals is able to produce enough for local consumption.
Made said the Grain Marketing Board’s grain storage capacity is four million metric tonnes, with the silos currently holding the strategic reserve of 700 000 metric tonnes.
A total of $61 million is needed to repair silos that are not in good condition in preparation for a bumper harvest after the country received normal rains this year.