Saturday, 28 August 2021


FARMERS who benefited under Command Agriculture must repay at least 80 percent of the 2020/21 summer cropping season total loan by November 30, failure of which they won’t be enrolled in the coming season, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Under the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), commonly known as Command Agriculture or Special Agriculture Programme funding model, Government provides guarantees to banks for the farmers to secure loans for inputs.

Command Agriculture, which was initiated in 2016, has laid a solid foundation for ensuring national food security, accelerating import substitution, increasing employment and improving incomes and livelihoods. The programme is backed by Government guarantee to banks that raise capital to lend to farmers to enhance local agricultural production through concessionary loans.

The scheme has also provided a basis for broadening agricultural exports. More than 15 000 farmers benefit from the scheme annually with at least 2,3 million smallholder farmers benefiting from social protection schemes every year.

In a statement yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minster Dr Anxious Masuka said farmers under Command Agriculture who have fully paid their debts will immediately sign up for the 202I/22 summer cropping season.

However, those with outstanding debts will not access the loans. “Farmers with outstanding debts will not be enrolled for the 2021/22 summer cropping season until they have made an immediate payment of at least 50 percent of the 2020/21 season total loan amount by September 31, 2021. They should also make a repayment of at least 80 percent of the total amount by November 30, 2021,” said Dr Masuka.

The minister said the defaulters are also supposed to sign a commitment with an asset pledge to pay the programme in full before the onset of 2021/22 summer cropping season.

“For the avoidance of doubt, banks that lend to farmers who have not fulfilled those conditions will be liable for any defaults. Additional measures will be taken and all national payment platforms will be activated to ensure repayments by defaulting farmers, including submission of names to the Financial Clearing Bureau.,” said Dr Masuka.

The Minister said Government reserves the right to revoke offer letters for farmers who use their offer letters to the detriment of the programmes it is funding, including an intentional failure to settle loans. Dr Masuka said contract arrangements for the 2021/22 season are being strengthened to deter side-marketing, non-performance and under-performance.

“The success of NEAPS is pivotal for sustainable financing of the agricultural sector. The success of the programme is dependent on repayment of loans by farmers, avoidance of side-marketing, and restoration of financial discipline and ethical conduct in the conduct of business by all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain,” he said.

“We issued several Statutory Instruments (SIs) to protect contractors, including Government. Farmers have overwhelmingly supported these instruments by honouring their obligations and we thank these farmers for this effort.”

Dr Masuka noted that some farmers were ignoring these SIs through side-marketing their crops, prejudicing contractors and jeopardising repayments to banks that funded the programme. “The agricultural transformation we seek should not be jeopardised by these few farmers. Government has assisted to ensure NEAPS is well funded with the ultimate goal of converting repayments from recoveries into a revolving fund so that farmers to continue benefiting from the programme,” he said.

Dr Masuka said Government is wary of some unscrupulous farmers that are abusing the Command Agriculture scheme by taking inputs and misusing them. “Other farmers are not repaying their debts, even if they have capacity to do so,” he said.

Dr Masuka said Government will continue to implement the two-pronged approach in financing agricultural activities, with the fiscus focussing on supporting vulnerable households with inputs under the Productive Social Protection Scheme (Presidential Inputs Scheme), while the private sector is provided with an appropriate environment to finance commercial activities, including guarantees, where necessary.

In April, CBZ Agro-Yield managing director, Mr Walter Chigodora told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement that Government extended the repayment period by an additional three years to farmers who failed to repay their loans at the end of last season owing to drought and the Covid-19-induced national lockdown.

This means the debt has been restructured and farmers will have to repay it in three instalments for the next three seasons. Chronicle


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