Senior Agriculture Reporter
Cotton farmers have been assured that the delayed payments are being processed with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development now directly engaging Treasury to settle all outstanding payments.
Farmers are owed $2 billion for the cotton they produced last season.
The Cotton Council of Zimbabwe (CCOZ) has applauded Government for supporting farmers with free inputs and subsidised producer prices, but expressed concern over the delays in payments.
“In an inflationary environment such as currently prevailing in our economy, the outstanding payments lose buying power to the extent that by the time the farmer gets the money, it would not reflect the true value that it would have had at the time the farmers’ cotton was collected by the buying contractor. This inevitably results in the industry losing experienced farmers,” said CCOZ.
CCOZ president Mr Paul Mangwana said the delays in paying cotton farmers was also affecting the rural economy and development and would also affect the attainment of Vision 2030.
He wanted to see payments adjusted upwards to compensate for the loss of value farmers incurred through inflation between delivery and payment.
“CCOZ will continue representing the cotton growers’ interests by engaging all stakeholders in the cotton sector, particularly Government through the relevant ministries and authorities like the Agricultural Marketing Authority, to ensure that the cotton sector is protected and grows for the good of the nation,” he said.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said Government was aware of the payment delays and had approached the Ministry of Finance and Economic development for the release of the money.
“Our Ministry continues to prioritise the outstanding amount due to our cotton farmers. Just this week, we have written to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development urging them to release all outstanding dues in the shortest period of time. We understand our cotton farmers’ plea and also share the same sentiment for an urgent resolution by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who are seized with the issue of the outstanding amounts.
“We urge our farmers to continue planting cotton until 15 January 2022 to take advantage of the rains we have been blessed with recently.
“Cotton is a very profitable crop and with the support in the form of free inputs from Government under the Presidential Input Scheme, we believe that this will further assist in transforming our rural population, while having huge benefits to the economy at large,” he said.
Cotton is a strategic crop that is interwoven into the rural economy and indeed the national economy as it is a cash crop for many farmers, particularly those in drought prone areas, which provides lint for downstream textile industries, seed for cooking oil makers, and generates export earnings. Seed residue after the oil is extracted for human consumption is used in animal feeds.
The intervention by Government on cotton production through the Presidential Inputs Scheme was meant to revive the sector, which was collapsing due to low prices offered by merchants and other problems related to inputs.
Most farmers in cotton growing areas had abandoned producing the crop after prices fell and merchants had reduced input packages citing side marketing by farmers and this further affected production.