The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement has put in place measures meant to further improve the performance of the country’s Command Agriculture facility for the 2021/22 farming season.
The measures will include the strengthening of contract arrangements for the 2021/2022 season that will deter side-marketing, non-performance and under-performance by beneficiaries.
In a press statement, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka, said Command Agriculture is pivotal for sustainable financing of the agricultural sector, hence its success is dependent on repayment of loans by farmers, avoidance of side-marketing, and restoration of financial discipline and ethical conduct in the conduct of business by all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain.
He said it was unfortunate that some beneficiaries have been side-marketing their crops prejudicing contractors and jeopardising repayments to banks that funded the facility.
“The contract arrangements for the 2021/2022 season are being strengthened to deter side-marketing, non-performance and under-performance. Farmers who have fully paid their debts will be immediately enrolled for the 2021/2022 season. Farmers with outstanding debts will not be enrolled for the 2021/2022 season until they have made an immediate payment of at least 50 percent of the 2020/21 summer season total loan amount by September 31 2021 and also made a repayment of at least 80 percent of the 2020/21 summer season total loan amount by November 30 2021,” said Dr Masuka.
The Minister said banks that lend to farmers who have not fulfilled their obligations, will be liable for any defaults.
“Additional measures will be taken and all national payment platforms will be activated to ensure repayments by defaulting farmers, including submission of names to the Financial Clearing Bureau. The Minister reserves the right to revoke offer letters for farmers who use their offer letters to the detriment of Government-supported programmes, including an intentional failure to settle loans,” he said.
The Command Agriculture facility is backed by a government guarantee to banks that raise capital to lend to farmers to enhance local agricultural production through concessionary loans. Government has assisted to ensure it is well funded with the ultimate goal of converting repayments from recoveries into a revolving fund, this allows current and new farmers to continue benefiting from the programme.