CBZ clashes with farmers over unserviced loans

The farmers, however, said they were indebted to the bank and were willing to pay back the loans.

CBZ Bank Limited and farmers have clashed over unpaid loans advanced to them under the Agro Yield programme, NewsDay established.

The stand-off is affecting mainly maize farmers who were contracted under Agro Yields facility aimed at boosting food security.

A letter dated September 20, 2023, titled Position of Hurungwe Farmers, said farmers contracted for 2022/23 season have failed to pay off the loans they received from the bank.

However, disgruntled farmers accused CBZ of  "fleecing" them.

“The market price of Broom and Natto herbicides was, and still is US$11/litre but CBZ charges US$34 per litre and US$31,41/litre respectively,  a 200% markup. Bentazone’s price was $11,80/L but under CBZ Agro Yields, the price was set at US$24,29/L representing a 100% increase,” read the letter gleaned by this publication and signed by Denis Chabikwa, Hurungwe Farmers Association secretary.

“The market price of diesel was US$1,65/litre while CBZ charges US$1,98/litre representing a 20% markup. A 50kg bag of Urea had a market price of US$35, but CBZ was charging US$64 resulting in an 80% increase.

“Over and above the overpriced inputs, you would then charge interest and facility fees.”

The concerned farmers also  said inputs should be supplied before the start of the new farming season,

“All the good rains fell early November and December but farmers had no inputs. The top dressing fertiliser was delivered towards the end of February after CBZ admitted to the farmers that they were unable to source the commodity from its traditional suppliers,” part of the letter read.

Chabikwa, however, said farmers were affected by poor rains.

“The rains abruptly ended in mid-February when the majority of the crop was at the grain filling stage, affecting the yield.”

The farmers, however, said they were indebted to the bank and were willing to pay back the loans.

 “As farmers, our only source of income is farming activities. We are, therefore, requesting CBZ to take us on board again during the 2023/24 season. We are requesting that the bank lends cash to buy inputs instead,” they said.

“If farmers buy inputs for themselves they will be able to source them from suppliers with the best prices and they will be able to negotiate discounts for quantities. As for the default, farmers are requesting that the bank considers spreading the default repayment to a 5-year period. Some tobacco contracting companies have in the past granted their farmers permission to service their US$1 000 default over four years.”

Some farmers around the country have also raised the issue with CBZ.

Repeated efforts to get an official response from CBZ have not been fruitful despite assurance by senior official Manase Gaka who acknowledged receipt of questions in September.

On December 11, he made assurances to provide a response.

 "Apologies. I need one more sign off before  I can share. I hope I get it first thing in the morning," he texted on the same day  but has been elusive since then.


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