THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) says due to the absence of clear financing for the Command Agriculture scheme, the cost of funding it would be between $280 to $419,7 million (2% to 3%) of the gross domestic product (GDP).
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The revelations came during IMF’s recently concluded Article IV consultations on the economy of Zimbabwe between the country’s authorities and IMF’s Executive board that ended last Wednesday.
While releasing the Article IV Consultations report on Friday, IMF mission chief on Zimbabwe, Ana Lucia Coronel, told reporters via satellite conferencing, Command Agriculture was not necessarily targeted to people who did not have other sources of support.
“In some of our discussions with authorities we have noted that some of this command programmes were not in the budget, so there is not enough clear financing for them and that produces a challenge. Also, they are not necessarily targeted to the people who do not have other sources of support so we are concerned increasing support to sectors from a government that is still facing a deficit in its account,” she said,
During consultations between the IMF and Zimbabwean authorities, the international body questioned the design and financing of the command agriculture programme as the commitment to buy large quantities of grain at above-market prices is not cost-efficient.
According to the IMF Article IV Consultations report, the setting up by government the buying price for the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at $390 per tonne of maize, more than double the current world price, would significantly be above the import parity price.
The price would be above the target millers have agreed to purchase maize from the GMB.
As a result, depending on the loan recovery rates and the prevailing market prices, the cost of the command programmes for maize and wheat would likely be in the range of 2 to 3% of GDP by the end of the year.
However, IMF Zimbabwe mission economist, Joseph Thornton, said since the situation was evolving rapidly they did not have a correct position of what the total stance of command agriculture will be.
“I mean even for maize, for example, we do not know how much maize the GMB will end up purchasing so it is difficult to get a good sense of the costs, but it is clear that this is some of the major cause driving the deficit and therefore it is a source of concern in that regard,” he said.
While supporting the goal of ensuring food security was a noble idea, the IMF argued that government needed to focus on irrigation, educational programmes, and infrastructure instead of letting the private sector supply the rest.