mechanisation and irrigation projects initiated by Government are not for free and beneficiaries will be expected to pay back loans, with all loans being issued through banks using banking criteria of creditworthiness, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said yesterday.
Minister Shiri said only farmers with a proven track record and capacity to pay back loans will benefit from the Government-initiated mechanisation and irrigation programmes now being spearheaded through banks.
Government was able to help get the best pricing and supply, but financing was through individual deals between banks and farmers.
Under the Second Republic, mechanisation and irrigation programmes include the John Deere facility and the Belarus irrigation facility and these are all based on cost recovery.
The John Deere Mechanisation facility, which is aimed at achieving the Agricultural Recovery Plan, is meant to ensure Zimbabwe achieves self-sufficiency in the production of cereals.
The facility included tractors, combine harvesters, planters, disc harrows, boom sprayers and trailers, among other implements.
Under the Agriculture Recovery Plan, it is expected that 5 000 capable farmers with a proven track record on cereal production will be contracted.
The farmers will be supported through access to irrigation infrastructure development, mechanisation and input support as well as enhanced extension services.
Minister Shiri said the selection of beneficiaries is now based on creditworthiness of farmers as assessed by banks and no one will interfere. Banks will use their know-your-customer systems.
“We have roped in banks and everything is now in the hands of banks. We are working with CBZ, Stanbic Bank and Agribank. Agribank will also be establishing a special equipment leasing vehicle for the purposes of mechanisation service provision for combine harvesters,” he said.
Minister Shiri said Government had deliberately come up with policy to ensure accountability and transparency. The payment modalities and terms will be up to the banks.
Government could chip in to support productive sectors such as the agriculture sector, but programmes such as the Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs scheme should complement the initiatives of an individual farmer.
“There is no free lunch under the Second Republic. Government is taking advantage of its reach and negotiating capacity to get equipment for farmers at reasonable prices and farmers are expected to pay.
“There is no free lunch. The projects are on a cost recovery basis,” he said.
Government is ready to help capacitate farmers so the country are able to produce enough food to meet the national requirements with a surplus for export.
The agriculture sector employs 70 percent of the country’s population, produces raw materials for the manufacturing industry and contributes immensely towards the Gross Domestic Product and foreign currency earnings.
Said Minister Shiri: “The responsibility of equipment of farmers lies with the farmers.
“For instance, tobacco growers are getting 50 percent of their earnings in foreign currency. This is not for luxury, but resources that should be channelled towards building greater capacity.”
Government has entered into a number of contracts with suppliers of equipment. For irrigation, Pedstock has been engaged on a number of centre pivots.