Government, realising that commercial banks were not lending to farmers and that there is low productivity in agriculture, decided that more resources need to be mobilised for on-lending to the farmers. The policy therefore, is to mobilise resources to on-lend to the farmers, put in place mechanisms for farmers to repay their loans. That in fact is what the Government policy is. In this respect, the support to agriculture is through two ways – the Presidential Input Scheme. With respect to the previous year, it was 800 000 vulnerable households that we supported through the Presidential Input Scheme and Command Agriculture. We also support the cotton farmers to the tune of US$42 million, again through the Presidential Scheme. These are free inputs to the farmers.
Then the Command Agriculture is basically a loan to those who are in farming. Mostly last season it was to support the production of our staple food maize. I am happy to say that the programme has exceeded our expectations, but that is not to say there may not be shortcomings in the programme, we are identifying where and how those shortcomings are about so that we can improve. We have already undertaken the Winter Wheat Programme. We are also going to undertake next season 2017/2018 – again, a Command Agriculture for maize, soya beans and small grains. So, that is the policy of Government. What anyone says outside this policy, I cannot say.
Again to emphasise, Mr. Speaker Sir, that the participation in the scheme is purely voluntary and people can opt out and can opt in as they wish. Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. MANDIPAKA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the Hon. Minister to explain the feasibility of taking the programme to villages and rural areas because the majority and masses of Zimbabwe are applauding this noble programme. Thank you.
HON. CHINAMASA: I thank the Hon. Member for that question, but I need to respond as follows – communal people A1 and old settlement, former purchase areas are eligible for the Presidential Input Scheme which is free of charge. In the 2017/2018 season we are going to support 1.8 million households. This will ensure that each household will have one bag of fertiliser of compound D, one of ammonium nitrate and10kgs of seed.
HON. DR. MASHAKADA: My supplementary question is, since the Minister says that banks have been shunning funding the agricultural sector or rather the financial sector itself has been shunning funding the agricultural sector and also given that Government does not have sufficient funds as Treasury for agricultural funding. What is the source of funds for command agriculture and what is the term sheet for those sources of funds?
HON. CHINAMASA: The structure is that Sakunda Holdings provides the inputs upfront to be paid in a year when people harvest and then start paying back. Currently, they are now starting to pay for the inputs that they received last year. On our part, because Sakunda is a private player, it requires to be paid an interest and it also requires security. So, we have provided that security and we are paying inclusive 5% interest. I want to say that following the success of this past season, we have now begun to observe the commercial banks coming on board. As, I speak, Sakunda is mobilising the support of the commercial banks because these inputs must be paid upfront to the suppliers of fertilizers and chemicals. So, we have found out that Sakunda is now working in conjunction with about three banks which include CBZ and Barclays Bank. That basically is a structure which is on a cost recovery basis. I want to emphasise that those who are on the database who fail to pay, will obviously jeopardise their opportunities for borrowing in future. We cannot keep on repeating giving support to farmers who have no intention of repaying. I also want to say that command agriculture is helping us to identify serious farmers. Over a period of time, we should have a good pool of serious farmers whom we can support to produce for this country.
Continued next page