By Kuda Chideme, HARARE, June 7 (The Source) – Fuel supplier, Sakunda Holdings, which financed government’s command agriculture special maize production programme, says it has roped in a consortium of local banks to help fund the scheme over the next three years.
Under the programme, government provides inputs, irrigation and mechanised equipment to mainly smallholder farmers.
Zimbabwe, a former regional breadbasket that has become a serial grain importer since the government’s seizure of white-owned farms in 2000, expects 2 million tonnes of grain in the 2016/2017 season, more than enough to meet the country’s annual demand.
Under the command programme, 168,666 hectares of land was planted, far short of the target of 400,000 as a result of delays in the distribution of inputs and incessant rains.
Sakunda, which in 2015 was awarded a $500 million contract to set up a 200 megawatt emergency diesel power plant in Dema by government, put up close to $264 million for the maize programme.
“We cannot do this alone so we have engaged local banks to support us some of the banks that have come on board are CBZ, Barclays and Ecobank. In the next season about 60 percent of the funding will come from the banks,” Sakunda Holdings chief executive Kuda Tagwirei told a meeting to assess the programme on Wednesday.
Official figures show that 36,536 farmers were contracted under the programme in the 2016/17 season.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa who was also present at the same meeting said there was need to address cost structures across the board to make the programme sustainable.
“The cost of finance and attendant bank charges distort the cost of production that will in turn push farmers into a loss position. I would want to implore banks to work close with farmers in order to grow the industry …banks have no excuse not to lend to farmers …we have taken over close to a $1 billion of their bad debts we have cleaned their balance sheets to wet their appetite for more lending to the productive sectors,” he said.