Zimbabwe has set up an agricultural exchange market and will let the market decide the price of agricultural products, Deputy Finance Minister Clemence Chiduwa told Parliament.
He said that it was not the duty of the government to buy produce like maize after supply inputs. The government had instead set up ZIMEX to let the private sector determine market prices for agro-products.
Chiduwa had been asked what the government was doing in view of the fact that the government was behind in paying farmers for produce already delivered.
He said the government had paid farmers the Zimbabwe dollar component but still owed US$28 million. It was paying this out at US$5 million a week.
*HON. MURAI: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the answers that were given by the Hon. Minister. This question of disbursement of funds to farmers has been asked in this House several times. Are there any plans in place to ensure that farmers are paid their dues on time? When are we going to stop asking that question on late disbursement of funds to farmers?
HON. MHONA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I would like also to thank Hon. Murai for that question. Actually the farmers were paid part of their money in local currency. What now remains is the foreign currency component, which I will emphasise to my fellow Minister of Lands to look into this matter. In conclusion, noting that the Deputy Minister of Finance is now in the House, he can assist us on when the foreign currency will be disbursed to the farmers.
THE HON. SPEAKER: The question is, this question has been asked over and over again, when are we going to stop asking the same question? That is the question.
HON. MHONA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I would like to humble myself, we have the Deputy Minister of Finance amongst us, may you please allow him to respond to that. I thank you.
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHIDUWA): Thank you very much for that pertinent question. I would like to say, indeed I agree just like what Hon. Minister Mhona said. We have been paying in two forms, the local currency as well as the foreign currency. We have since paid the local currency component. The outstanding amount is the USD28 million. Last week but one is when we agreed that in order for us to pay out that money, we are paying USD5 million per week. So, I expect that in the following week, we will be able to pay all the outstanding money in trenches of USD5 million per week.
The second part of the question – when are we going to stop asking the same question over and over again. The response is Government gives farmers land as well as inputs and we also buy maize from them. Now we are saying that is not the job of Government. What we have now started is a ZIMEX programme, it started last year. Right now we are saying, this is going forward, most of the agro products will have their price being driven by the market. So, we are calling the private sector to come on board to work with Government. All we are saying is agricultural produce should be bought on the market and the prices to be determined by the market. We want to work on the infrastructure such as irrigation so that we do not end up being on the market. I thank you.