Mash Central Bureau
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri says he is going to negotiate with banks that assisted farmers with loans after they hiked their interest rates to 32 percent from 10.5 percent, which he described as unsustainable.
The Government entered into a partnership with Agribank, CBZ, Stanbic and Women’s Bank to manage and disburse funds for Command Agriculture for the 2019-20 summer cropping season.
For maize and soyabean, the tenure of the loan was 270 days at an interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum and an upfront fee of 2.25 percent.
Speaking to farmers in Bindura recently, Minister Shiri said the new interest rate was high and would leave farmers empty-handed and unable to return to the field next season.
“Under Command Agriculture, farmers were charged 4 percent for inputs but things have changed from the last farming season when we engaged banks to support the agriculture sector,” he said.
“We are engaging the Minister of Finance and negotiating with banks to lower their interest rate. Some of the farmers’ grievances are that they don’t know how much they owe the bank for the summer season. On the other hand, some farmers only managed to get half of the inputs.
“It is true that inputs came late and some farmers didn’t get all the inputs. The prices for inputs were also announced later into the season.
“Going forward we want prices of inputs to be released and published in newspapers at the onset of the farming season. This will ensure farmers are informed and aware of the cost of inputs he/she is getting. If the prices are distorted corrections will be made.”
Minister Shiri said they are working with banks to make sure farmers get all their inputs at once.
“We are engaging banks to make sure all inputs are provided at once. It was a learning phrase and we are correcting the issue. We are talking to the banks to work together with our extension officers and interact with farmers explaining unclear issues.
“We expect them to be professional and issues to do with governance must be clear. A contract has obligations and a farmer has an obligation to pay back the loan. When a farmer gets half of the inputs it is difficult to know how much he/she owes. Whose fault will that be?”