Government still to clear cotton arrears
By Wellington Zimbowa
GOVERNMENT through the treasury has released over US$500 million in local currency as part of debt clearance to local cotton farmers for the 2020 season debt.
In a recent post-cabinet media briefing update, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said treasury has since released bulk funds to clear the area.
She also added that the country was already geared for the current farming season for the golden leaf.
“Concerning cotton deliveries, the value of the seed cotton delivered to date stands at ZW$ 6.353 billion. Cottco has paid a total of ZW$2.226 billion and US$2 809 539 to farmers. Regarding the 2020 outstanding farmer payments, ZW$569 million has been released by Treasury and paid to farmers and a balance of ZW$290 million is still outstanding,” she said.
Once touted as the ‘white gold’ due to the former high sale price, the chemical and labour intensive cotton farming practice has undergone severe challenges usually due to depreciation in global commodity prices and authorities’ reluctance to cushion farmers.
Last year, the official cotton buyer, Cottco Zimbabwe where the government has share investments torched a storm by introducing grocery payments for farmers.
But the company’s managing director, Pious Mamike, played down the controversial issue saying grocery payments were not a forced matter since farmers had options adding that the groceries were not being forced on anyone.
“We have been paying some of the farmers using groceries. We are not reneging on the contracts we entered with the farmers, but we are giving them a choice of either receiving cash or groceries.
“We had committed to pay the farmers in United States dollars, cash in local currency or through mobile transfers, but due to the liquidity crunch, we have been forced to opt for the groceries.
“We are not forcing anyone to take the groceries. Farmers can either take the groceries or wait for cash,” he was quoted saying in last year’s media report.
Alongside contract farming, where cotton farmers are given inputs through contractual agreements with different private players, the government has also been a key partner for cotton farming.
However, some farmers got duped by some contractors who took advantage of their desperation and poor due diligence.