Government will conduct investigations into cotton side marketing following a dossier submitted by the Cotton Producers and Marketers’ Association exposing farmers who are diverting cotton after receiving free inputs.

Side marketing is threatening to put a damper on the presidential inputs scheme with 52 growers out of 73 who were selling cotton at a buying point in Chiredzi being caught while diverting cotton to other companies instead of selling to the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).

Addressing cotton growers at Mushumbi in Mbire, the Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Cde Douglas Karoro said government is taking seriously allegations levelled against farmers and a government agency involved in the side marketing syndicate.

“The issue of side marketing has been spoken off and we will continue to speak of it because it is not pleasing or at least fair to provide inputs for farmers to then side market their produce. The government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is saying we understand there was a drought and crops did not do well, so we will give you free cotton inputs again this season but let’s not sell them. Side marketing is a crime and people will be arrested,” he said.

Cottco Managing Director, Mr Pious Manamike said cotton is a key employment driver in Mbire with focus now on building ginneries if production continues increasing.

“In Mashonaland Central, we support employment creation and we employed in this place 4500 people during this season. We want to uplift the people’s standards of living in this province through cotton under devolution,” said Mr Manamike.

The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Mashonaland Central, Cde Monica Mavhunga said Dande Valley has 100 000 farmers who are essential economic actors in the success of devolution agenda.

“We have 100 000 farmers and what remains is for us to know what each farmer contributes in revenue and their contribution to devolution,” said Cde Mavhunga.

Cotton production rebounded from 10 000 tonnes to 170 000 tonnes after the launch of the presidential inputs scheme, raking millions of dollars in foreign currency.