GOVERNMENT has admitted failing to raise the targeted $500 million for command agriculture due to exorbitant interest rates charged by lenders.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Agriculture minister Joseph Made told the national assembly on Wednesday that initially, the command agriculture programme had targeted to raise $500 million for 400 000 hectares, but that amount could not be raised.
“Five-hundred million (dollars) was the target. As we moved into the programme, various offers were made towards that $500 million.
However, the bottom line was that there was a certain interest rate that was acceptable for us in order to pass that onto the farmers.
“As you know, farmers are primary producers, they are price takers and if we had taken money that was expensive, we would have crippled the farmers. So, at the end of the day, the percentage that was accepted was 6% and below. This is the limitation that limited us (sic) from taking the $500 million that was offered,” Made said.
Debate has been raging on the success of the programme, which is a contract between farmers and government, with Higher and Tertiary education minister Jonathan Moyo disputing claims that the programme has been a success.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) challenged Made to state if command agriculture had been failed by poor planning, to which the minister partially admitted.
“I do not accept the assertion that the planning was not spot-on. I indicated in my response that whenever you are starting a programme or a project, it has its own weaknesses and strengths. By and large, this programme had much strength that we are building on. However, I will be fair to the honourable member and say the assurances are there that we will improve on the planning. Planning is also a science and not as perfect as you would like to paint it,” he said.
But Mliswa argued most farmers did not receive enough inputs.
In response, Made claimed authorities were ready to deal with the problems faced by farmers.
“The honourable member is talking about farmers who received partial inputs and what we know is that we have a clearly set-out agriculture structure where these farmers can go and talk about their problems,” Made said.
“Where you have not received all the inputs from command agriculture, farmers did not necessarily take the whole package. Some farmers had their own seed while others had part of their own fertilisers.”