Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
AGRICULTURE, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made has called on farmers across the country to open bank accounts ahead of harvesting to ensure smooth payment for grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
Zimbabwe expects to harvest about three million tonnes of maize with the command model likely to produce about two million tonnes.
This will be enough to meet domestic food requirements of about 1,5 million tonnes per year as well as that of agro-processing industries.
In view of the good crop and anticipated high yields, Government has assured farmers that they will be paid on time at $390 per tonne for grain deliveries to the GMB.
“This time we want to pay farmers instantly for grain deliveries and we won’t be able to do that if farmers do not have bank accounts,” said Dr Made, adding: “There’ll be no farmer now who would market a commodity without a bank account”.
The minister said this during a presentation at ARDA Antelope Estate in Maphisa, Matobo District, on Thursday.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa had visited the estate as well as ARDA Ingwizi where he assessed the crop and met farmers in his capacity as chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Food Security.
Dr Made said the opening of bank accounts by farmers was crucial in stabilising the country’s financial services sector, particularly reviving Agribank, a strategic unit in the development of the agriculture sector, which is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
The model has already been rolled out successfully in the tobacco sub-sector, where scores of farmers have opened bank accounts and receive payments for their produce through the formal channels.
Dr Made also challenged banks to be innovative and come up with flexible service packages that will promote inclusion of the unbanked population, mainly those in remote districts.
“Banks should avail themselves to farmers faster. Whenever farmers want cash they should get it,” he said.
The minister advised the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to broaden its scope by marketing all crops to ensure farmers benefit.
He said the Command Agriculture scheme was doing well so far, reiterating the Government’s position that the initiative’s focus was being extended from maize to cover other crops such as soya beans, cotton, small grains as well as livestock.