Zimbabwe showed its commitment to regain the bread basket status as government this Tuesday announced double figures amounting to over half a billion dollars to fund the 2017-2018 Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs Package.

The increased funding for the Command Agriculture Programme comes against a backdrop of the success of the inaugural phase which was financed to the tune of US$192 million.

Now government has made an early announcement of a better package to the tune of US$487 million for the 2017 2018 season.

In addition, the Presidential Inputs Scheme’s funding support has also increased 5-fold to US$154 million.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the food security and nutrition cluster of ZIM ASSET, revealed the agriculture finance package at the Lion’s Den GMB depot on Tuesday at the beginning of his mission to assess the logistics related challenges at the parastatal.

He also shed light on a programme which will see land under irrigation grow up to 300 000 hectares while grain-drying facilities will be established at GMB depots beginning next season.

The government is also set to address the problem of shortages of combine harvesters by importing more of the machines by the end of the summer season in 2018.

The vice president who also toured Banket concluded his mission at Chegutu GMB depot where he gave a nod on the efforts being done in Mashonaland West and hinted the fact finding tours will expand into other provinces.


Farmers welcome development

Farmers from across the country welcomed the increase in funding  for both the Command Agriculture Programme and the Presidential Inputs Scheme  for next season.

Those from Mashonaland Central Province said the pouring in of more resources to the two agricultural programmes shows government’s commitment towards ensuring the  country retains its bread basket status.

They described the development as significant to farmers, adding that getting adequate inputs on time will translate to a much  bigger harvest  next year.

Farmers at Lukosi irrigation scheme in Hwange, Matabeleland North Province commended the development, it will further enhance issues of food security across the country and expressed optimism that this will also improve revenue for irrigation farmers.

Other farmers from Mashonaland East province however appealed to the government to capacitate the Grain Marketing Board to ensure that the parastatal pays maize deliveries on time.


Government warning

The response on the ground shows that the Command Agriculture Programme is set to ultimately achieve the desired goal of food self-sufficiency with the buy in of government and the private sector noted as critical.

The government says there is no going back to the programme, and warned that those who seek to derail the programme will arrest.

The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Dr Christopher Mushohwe and Acting Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Douglas Mombeshora read the riot act on anti-progress misfits seeking to derail the programme, which President Robert Mugabe described as beautiful.


Stakeholders support

The banking sector is now on board after treasury gave two banks authority to float agro-bills aimed at raising funds for on-lending to farmers ahead of the summer cropping season.

Economist, Mr Takudzwa Chisango said agriculture feeds into the economy’s productive sectors and the coming on board of the banking sector is most welcome.

The Zimbabwe Seed Traders Association Vice Chairperson, Mr Amon Mwashaireni said seed firms are ready to start distributing inputs for the programme.

“Delivery of inputs will take place anytime this month,” said Mr Mwashaireni, adding that they expect to meet the targeted 37 000 tonnes of seed, 30 000 tonnes of which being seed maize, 6000 tonnes soya beans and 1000 tonnes sorghum.

The financier has also assured that 50 million litres of fuel is already in place for the summer cropping season, while fertiliser companies are also ready.

The tempo that the government has set in ensuring that funding, equipment, marketing and processing of the produce is ensured speaks volumes to the commitment to ensure food security in  the country, with expectations high that the initiative will boost industrial capacity utilisation to around 70 percent.


Setting the ball rolling

Now everything is now in motion for the second phase of the programme, with the registration of farmers for season having commenced.

Farmers told the ZBC News that Agritex extension officers are on the ground registering farmers after which data will be submitted to various district offices.

A Goromonzi farmer, Mr Noah Mangondo welcomed the early registration of growers as this will pave way for timely distribution of inputs.

Early preparations are expected to increase planted hectarage as only 168 666 hectares were planted last summer out of the targeted 247 035 hectares due to late inputs disbursement.