The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Government has come up with a set of terms for farmers under the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), commonly known as Command Agriculture, after some unscrupulous farmers have been abusing it. NEAPS commonly known as Command Agriculture, or Special Agriculture Programme for Import Substitution was initiated in 2016 and has laid a solid foundation for ensuring national food security, accelerating import substitution, increasing employment, improving incomes and livelihoods and has provided a basis for broadening agricultural exports.
In a statement on the National Enhanced Agricultural Production Scheme (Command Agriculture) Loan Recoveries, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuku faced with the challenge of unscrupulous farmers that have been abusing the NEAPS by taking inputs and misusing them, while other farmers are not repaying their debts, even if they have capacity to do so, various terms have been set.
“As way forward thee 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,” said Minister Dr Masuku.
He said 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. They also had to make a repayment of at least 80 percent of the 2020/21 Summer Season total loan amount by November 30, 2021.
Minister Dr Masuku said: “Those farmers have to signed a commitment with an asset pledge to pay the Programme in full before the onset of 2021/2022 season. For the avoidance of doubt, banks that lend to farmers who have not fulfilled the above, will be liable for any defaults.” He said 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.
Minister Dr Masuku said he reserved 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.
Over 15 000 farmers benefit from NEAPS annually, while over 2.3 million smallholder farmers benefit from social protection schemes annually.
He said: “Government will continue to implement the two-pronged approach in financing agricultural activities, with the fiscus focusing on supporting vulnerable households with inputs under the Productive Social Protection Scheme (Presidential Inputs Scheme), while the private sector is provided with an appropriate environment to finance commercial activities, including guarantees, where necessary.”