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US$161m earmarked for agriculture

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Government has earmarked US$161 million to support agriculture in the 2013/14 season, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said yesterday.
The focus would be on grain and livestock production.
The funding has been set aside for the Government’s input support programme targeting a total of 1,6 million communal, old resettled, small scale (former purchase areas) and A1 farmers.

Minister Chinamasa made the announcement in Harare during a press conference also attended by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made, following agreements at Cabinet on supporting farmers in particular and agriculture in general.

He said the basic input package would comprise 10 kilogrammes maize/small grain seed, 50kg compound D fertiliser, 50kg Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer and 50kg lime to improve the quality of the soil.

The initiative tallies with Zanu-PF’s pledge prior to the July 31 harmonised elections regarding its policy to support farmers, growth and development of agriculture once elected into office.

To that end, US$157,9 million would go towards finance production and or importation of inputs with US$39 084 000 for seed, US$50 483 500 for compound D fertiliser, US$56 997 500 for AN fertiliser and US$11 399 500 for lime.

Minister Chinamasa said US$530 000 would go towards the rehabilitation of the District Development Fund while US$2,6 million has been earmarked to improve the handling capacity of the Grain Marketing Board.  But in implementing the programme Minister Chinamasa said the Government was cognisant of the need to clear outstanding payments to input manufacturers for last year’s supplies.

“Hence, in addition to the input support programme, it is critical that attention is given to outstanding payments to input suppliers which stand at US$11,8 million arising from previous seasons.”

The Government would then disburse a total of US$40 million towards the fertiliser manufacturers for supplies required under the 2013/4 season agriculture input support programme.

Minister Chinamasa said that Government had also secured US$120 million private sector support for production of inputs by seed and fertiliser firms, which may be needed to augment imports.

He added that the Food and Agricultural Organisation in partnership with other donors had its indicated readiness to partner Government with a US$19,25 million contribution targeting 77 800 farmers.

Minister Made said the 2013/14 season was the last season where Government would provide direct input support to farmers as focus would now turn to subsidising manufacturers to lower input costs.

“For a long time we have been saying subsidising the manufacturers is the preferred form because it assists us as agriculture not to be involved in the day-to-day allocation of inputs to farmers.

“If we subsidise the manufacturers of inputs to lower the cost of production the farmers will be able to purchase the inputs on their own. (Also) if the farmers are paid timeously they will at least be able to purchase their own inputs, that is how farming should be,” said Minister Made.

He pointed said Cabinet agreed at Tuesday’s meeting that going forward the real anchor will be mechanisation and irrigation development to mitigate difficulties in terms of the staple crop — maize.

As such focus will be on developing full-scale and supplementary irrigation for winter cropping.
Discussions are still in progress with the banking sector on how A2 and commercial farmers can be assisted amid indications that most agricultural financial facilities are being finalised. Banks last week indicated a total of US$720 million had been set aside to support agriculture.

“At the moment we have not yet concretised support to A2 farmers, but obviously some of them will make their own arrangements but we would like this arrangement to be more concrete so that banks tell us specifically what they will put to agriculture,” Minister Chinamasa said.

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