BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The government only managed to recover US$50,2 million from the command agriculture facility for the 2016 to 2018 cropping season, Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube has revealed.
The government in 2016 launched a US$500 million command agricultural programme under which it intended to produce two million tonnes of maize from 400 000 hectares of land, a move meant to ensure food security and to reduce dependency on imports.
But the programme, designed to mobilise sustainable and affordable funding for agriculture so as to ensure food security and eliminate imports of food, was prone to abuse by top government officials and military chiefs.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance, Ncube told legislators that the amount recovered for the season 2016 to 2018 was $50,2 million.
“Basically, the amount recovered for the season 2016 to 2018 is, out of 44 617 farmers, $50,2 million. For the season 2017 to 2018 for maize again, we had 35 756 farmers and the amount recovered was $19,7 million,” Ncube said.
“Then for the wheat planting season of 2017, we have 2 270 farmers and what was recovered is US$13,7 million. Then for the wheat planting season for 2018, we have 74 847 farmers. Then for soyabeans added for the season 2017/2018 from 2 041 farmers, it is US$1,5 million,” he added.
The command agriculture contracts were entered into by government and Sakunda Holdings.
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The programme included farmers receiving seed, fertilizer and chemicals, with the proviso that they would sell part of their crop to the State as repayment.
Meanwhile, Ncube revealed that the budget deficit between January and August 2018 was US$2,5 billion, broken down as follows: January 2018 ($26 million); February 2018 ($61,5 million); March 2018 ($146 million); April 2018 ($264,6 million); May 2018 ($361,4 million); June 2018 ($402,1 million); July 2018 ($593.8 million) and August 2018 ($600 million).
On the question regarding the amount of money borrowed and from where, during the same period of January and August 2018, Ncube said the total borrowed during that period in terms of the Reserve Bank overdraft facility was $929,09 million and the amount borrowed by the central bank directly was $55,96 million, while other loans amounted to $174,17 million.
“The total Treasury Bills issued for the period under review is $2,5 billion and was issued for budget financing, capitalisation of government institutions and for dealing with legacy debts. The holders of these instruments are banks, insurance companies and pension funds,” he said.
“The split of that $2,5 billion in terms of budget financing is $343,39 million. It was used to deal with legacy debts of about $1,5 billion. Capitalisation and re-capitalisation of State institutions stood at $643,14 million, bringing the total to $2,5 billion.”
Ncube also revealed that central bank loans were $623 million, while loans from the private sector amounted to $188 million.