Elita Chikwati-Agriculture Reporter
Some rich oil seed expressers and grain millers have been reluctant to contract farmers for fear of side marketing, and agriculture experts have now welcomed Statutory Instruments 96 and 97 of 2020 on cotton and soya beans marketing, which seek to bar the practice.
The statutory instruments indicate that soya beans and cotton will only be sold to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) or the authorised agent or the sponsoring contractor.
Authorised agencies could be any parastatal or entity acting on behalf of the Government that is involved in the collection, storing, distribution or marketing of agricultural produce and “authorised person” shall be construed accordingly.
This means for cotton, Cottco is the authorised agent that will buy the crop from farmers.
Farmers feel that while the SI was important in curbing side-marketing, Government should also ensure farmers get adequate inputs from contractors while prices should be lucrative.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said the Statutory Instruments sought to effectively deal with side-marketing of seed cotton and soya beans.
“Around this time of the year, many middlemen surface and they exchange farmers’ produce for next to nothing. It is then the middlemen who end up selling for higher value.
“The SIs are very clear that authorised agents and contractors will be able to buy what produce they would have contracted. To ensure fair value to the farmers, it is important to put in place measures that regulate the playing field without prejudicing any players,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said cotton farmers were still expecting outstanding payments from last season.
“To boost confidence in the sector, it is absolutely necessary for contractors to make good on the outstanding obligations,” he said.
Agriculture economist, Dr Prince Kuipa, yesterday said if a farmer was contracted, they should sell through the contractor. “Cotton growers were beginning to side-market the crop. The SI on cotton does not mean GMB will now buy cotton. Cottco which is the authorised agent will buy the cotton from farmers sponsored through the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
“The SIs are a good move which will ensure farmers get good value for their product and also ensure orderly marketing in the sector,” he said.
Another agriculture economist, Mr Peter Gambara, said there had been cases of some companies buying cotton and soya beans from farmers even when they would not have contracted them.
“Cotton and soya beans are very attractive to buyers. Government has been sponsoring cotton and soya beans and these cannot be bought by private players who would have not sponsored farmers.
“On the other hand, contractors have not been genuine in funding farmers and some prefer to import. Some companies do not give adequate inputs to farmers fuelling side marketing,” he said.
Mr Gambara said side-marketing was a bad practice that would discourage companies from contracting farmers.
“Some oil seed expressers and grain millers have not been willing to contract farmers due to fear of side-marketing. The SI is not only protecting Government but contractors as well,” he said.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association president Mr Stewart Mubonderi said while the SI was good in curbing side-marketing there was need for Government to explain the SI to farmers so they appreciate the measures.
“A statutory instrument is not complete to curb side marketing. If farmers are not given adequate inputs they will be tempted to side market the crop. If farmers are given inputs and the producer price is unviable, they will also be tempted to side market. So Government should also consider the issue of inputs package and producer price in curbing side marketing.
“Some farmers have not understood the SI. Some cotton farmers are in panic as they are still owed their money by Cottco and feel the GMB is now buying the crop,” he said.