Side marketing and defaulting farmers sabotaging Command Agriculture  

by | Sep 3, 2021 | Business | 0 comments

Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa


The agricultural transformation that Zimbabwe seeks should not be jeopardised by a few farmers side-marketing their crops. This prejudices contractors and jeopardises repayments to banks that funded the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS).


This was said by the Minister of Lands, Agricluture, Fisheries Water And Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka in a statement released today while addressing the NEAPS loan recoveries.


Dr Masuka said, “The National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), commonly known as Command Agriculture, or Special Agriculture Programme for Import Substitution, initiated in 2016, 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.”


To date, over 15 000 farmers have benefited from this NEAPS annually, while over 2.3 million small-holder farmers benefit from social protection schemes such as the Presidential Input Scheme and Pfumvudza annually.


Government has committed to continue implementing the two-pronged approach in financing agricultural activities, with the fiscus focussing 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.


The programme has not been without its challenges and Dr Masuka highlighted that the success of the programme hinged on farmers adhering to their contractual obligations.


He said, “The success of NEAPS is pivotal for sustainable financing of the agricultural sector.

The success of NEAPS 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.“


According to Dr Masuka, Government issued Statutory Instruments (SI 247 of 2018, SI 145 of 2019, SI 96, SI97 and SI 188 of 2021) that seek to protect contractors, including government from the scourge of side-marketing. He thanked most farmers who have overwhelmingly supported the Instruments by honouring their obligations.


Dr Masuka however said there are some farmers who have not fulfilled their obligations, ignoring the SIs. His statement read,

“Unfortunately, some farmers have ignored these SIs and have gone ahead and side-marketed their crops prejudicing contractors and jeopardising repayments to banks that funded the NEAPS.

The agricultural transformation we seek should not be jeopardised by these few farmers.”


Dr Masuka highlighted how Command Agriculture was backed by a government guarantee to banks that would have raised capital to lend to farmers to enhance local agricultural production through concessionary loans. Government, he said, had assisted to ensure NEAPS is well funded with the ultimate goal of converting repayments from recoveries into a revolving fund, current and new farmers to continue benefiting from the programme.


According to Dr Masuka, there are unscrupulous farmers that have been abusing the NEAPS, taking inputs and misusing them, while other farmers are not repaying their debts, even when they have the capacity to do so.


On the way forward, he said the The Contract arrangements for the 2021/2022 season are being strengthened to deter side-marketing, non-performance and under-performance. In this regard, 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% of the 2020/21 Summer Season total loan amount by September 31, 2021.


They should also have made a repayment of at least 80% of the 2020/21 Summer Season total loan amount by November 30, 2021.


The payments should be followed by a signed commitment with an asset pledge to pay the Programme in full before the onset of 2021/2022 season.


Dr Masuka indicated that banks that lend to farmers that have defaulted lose government guarantee and will be liable, “For the avoidance of doubt, banks that lend to farmers who have not fulfilled the above, will be liable for any defaults.”


He reiterated that 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 was quick to pint out that he 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.