GOVERNMENT has moved in to punish “dishonest” cotton farmers who were given presidential inputs, but failed to deliver the crop to Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) during the 2023 selling season.
Agriculture ministry secretary Obert Jiri said farmers who failed to meet their end of the bargain would not be prioritised when government distributes the inputs.
“Farmers are advised that the 2023/24 presidential cotton inputs must prioritise farmers who delivered seed cotton during the 2023 cotton marketing season,” he said.
Jiri said agricultural bodies had been tasked to monitor the use of the presidential inputs.
“Agritex, AMA [Agricultural Marketing Authority] and Cottco extension services will work jointly to identify farmers to be supported. Co-ordinates of production units will be captured to allow Cottco and Agritex to inspect and access crop establishment as part of the monitoring and evaluation of the use of inputs,” he indicated.
Last week, Cottco chief operating officer Munyaradzi Chikasha called for a probe into how farmers were utilising inputs under the presidential input scheme introduced a decade ago to help the “white gold” farmers increase output.
However, despite cotton production nearly hitting a peak of 140 000 tonnes in the 2020/21 season, the following season production declined to under 60 000t and slightly rose to 90 000t in the 2022/23 season.
Some farmers allegedly sold the inputs, some of which were recovered by police from buyers.
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There have also been reports that some officials are selling farming inputs.
Former Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement deputy minister Douglas Karoro was arrested on allegations of selling 700 bags of fertiliser, US$18 000 worth of maize seed and 5 000 vegetable seed kits from the Presidential Inputs Scheme.