Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Government through Arda will resume cotton growing at the Antelope Estate at Maphisa Growth Point to reposition the farm as the hub of cotton growing in Matabeleland South.
The farm used to come tops among the biggest cotton- producing farms under Arda.
Addressing a high- powered delegation that included Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, during the tour of the farm on Thursday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the cotton will be grown under the Presidential Input Scheme.
“We are now dealing with cotton and this is covered under the Presidential Input Scheme. Antelope used to come out tops in cotton production year in and out at Arda,” he said.
Dr Made also said the Antelope Estate was also the best training ground for Arda in terms of crop production despite being ill-resourced.
“Back then we had no modern equipment here, it was not the way it is today but this place managed to be always at the top in growing cotton and we now want to go back to those years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Made said it is critical for Arda to work with companies that can finance projects and also avail crop insurance strategies such as First Mutual. He said the banking sector must also lure more farmers into their books as this will boost the economy and allow buyers to pay farmers easily.
“No farmer will market a commodity without a bank account. This is because we want to pay farmers instantly only if they have bank accounts,” he said.
He said the Government will soon recapitalise Agribank.
“We have decided to resuscitate Agribank, because it is an agricultural bank. No small farmer should struggle to get their payments, they should all have bank accounts. Banks should ensure farmers’ access accounts at the lowest possible level, they should be flexible. The banks also have to move away from cities and go to where the farmers are,” he said.
Arda chairman, Mr Basil Nyabadza, said the parastatal was seeking financing to set up the fruit processing plant in Esigodini, in fulfillment of the late Vice-President Dr Joshua Nkomo’s dream.
“We are looking for financing for this project. This is the heritage left by Umdala Wethu, he was a development man and this was his dream that we are sharing now,” he said.
He said Arda was getting positive feedback from Agribank in terms of financing of the project and was looking forward to the participation of locals in growing fruit that will be processed at the plant.