Mat’land farmers hail Government’s grain incentive

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FARMERS in Matabeleland have welcomed the decision by Government to offer them an extra US$90 bonus incentive per tonne for those who deliver maize and traditional grains to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) before the end of next month. The incentive, which is reflective of the current economic situation, is over and above the $75 000 a tonne producer price set recently by the Government for all four summer grains.

Government on Tuesday announced the new bonus incentive after the Cabinet approved the proposal by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to reward farmers for their efforts. In his post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, The Minister of Information Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government agreed to the extra incentive bonus, which will be backdated to the beginning of April when the marketing season opened. Zimbabwe started the new marketing season with large carry-over stocks from last season.

On April 1 when the GMB was ready to take deliveries from the new harvest there were stocks of 453 717 tonnes carried over from the previous season as a strategic grain reserve. Fertiliser will now be sold in foreign currency in an open market since some components are imported but those accessing it using Government schemes will pay in local currency. In separate interviews, farmers lauded Government for the initiative, saying it will encourage them to deliver their crops early and help address some of the challenges such as buying inputs. Going forward, farmers urged Government to consider pegging the producer prices 100 percent in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union chairperson for Matabeleland region, Mr Winston Babbage said the US$90 per tonne will help farmers purchase inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals, which they buy in foreign currency. “We welcome the Government’s decision to incentivise farmers through the introduction of the US$90 per tonne bonus, which we will address in terms of the cost of production.

Suppliers of inputs want to be paid in United States dollars while farmers are being paid in local currency,” he said. “As farmers, we are saying if the Government can import maize from other countries using foreign currency, surely, they should also pay us in foreign currency so that we produce more and save our foreign currency reserves through importing grain.” Mr Babbage urged Government to consider subsiding or distributing inputs on contract farming basis. “Our hope is that going forward, the Government will consider paying us 100 percent in foreign currency since we are buying all our inputs in 100 percent forex.

The cost of production is astronomical because we are paying in US dollars,” he said. “We urge the Government to subsidise or distribute inputs on contract farming basis so that it becomes a win-win situation. Not everyone is benefiting from the Presidential Input Scheme.” Mrs Cookie Moyo, a farmer from Bubi District in Matabeleland North said: “To us as farmers, we are thankful to the Government for this initiative, which will address some of the challenges in the farming business. Indeed, this is a bonus to us as farmers because we will be able to buy inputs such as fertiliser so that we continue farming and ensure food security in our country.”

Another farmer from Umguza district, Mr Mehluli Ndlovu said the bonus will encourage farmers to make early deliveries to GMB. “The US$90 per tonne incentive will encourage us as farmers to deliver grain to GMB early thus boosting the country’s food security. To us, it is an early Christmas and we are looking forward to the Government further increasing the producer price in foreign currency so that we are able to buy more inputs,” he said. Mr Ndlovu urged the Government to address the stability of prices of inputs so that they do not lose out. “A bag of ammonium nitrate costs about US$70, but as farmers we are paid in Zimbabwean dollars.

We want to have all that addressed for the producer prices to be viable,” he said. Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said the incentive to farmers is a step in the right direction. Dr Makombe said farmers will be motivated to produce more following the introduction of US$90 per tonne incentives. “The introduction of the US$90 per tonne incentive is a reflection of the Government’s sensitivity to our plight as farmers and listening to our lobbying. This is something that we really acknowledge and appreciate because it is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“However, we continue lobbying and engaging the Government so that the 30 percent we are getting in foreign currency for delivering grain to GMB is raised to 100 percent. This is because as farmers, we are also saving the import bill which ordinarily was going to be spent by the Government. Dr Makombe said most farmers had not started delivering to GMB because the season started very late. Commenting on the producer price structure, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Anxious Masuka said the $75 000 a tonne paid for maize, sorghum, millet and rapoko, coupled with the US$90 incentive adds up to the equivalent of US$350, a figure he said was competitive. “If you look at the import parity price for maize and if you look at this price framework, this is a very lucrative arrangement for farmers. It is giving them the equivalent of US$350 per metric tonne which is comparable if not better than anywhere else in the region,” he said.

“The $75 000 per metric tonne and US$90 early delivery incentive is a simplification of the area around the pricing regime where we are looking at 30 percent being paid in US dollars while 70 percent being payable in Zimbabwe dollars.” Dr Masuka urged farmers to take advantage of the Government’s generosity by delivering before July 31. “The US$90 per tonne and $75 000 will be able to motivate farmers to get back to the field and I regard it as a fair reward for the farmers’ effort. This incentive is backdated to when the first deliveries were made so no farmer will be prejudiced,” said Dr Masuka.

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