A CLASH between displaced commercial farmers and government looks inevitable in the coming year as the 2004 budget has left out the sensitive issue of compensation.
Commercial farmers who were forcibly evicted from their properties since the beginning of farm invasions in 2000 have dragged government to court demanding billions of dollars as compensation.
Government promised to compensate displaced farmers for the improvements made on the farms but not the farms themselves.
Last year government allocated a mere $10 billion for compensation, which farmers said was enough to pay for improvements on only 30 farms.
Finance minister Herbert Murerwa’s budget gave agriculture the fourth highest vote. The budget totally ignored compensation, concentrating on financing inputs for the newly resettled farmers, suppression of animal diseases, irrigation rehabilitation and capitalisation of the Agricultural Development Bank.
“In order to improve productivity, mitigate the effects of drought and restore the viability of the agricultural sector, I have allocated $587,6 billion to be channelled towards irrigation rehabilitation and development, mechanisation, capitalisation of the Agricultural Development Bank, livestock production and enhanced extension services,” Murerwa said.
The minister said other than financial support for agriculture, government was putting in place mechanisms for private investor participation in the agrarian reform.
“Government has put in place mechanisms for private sector support which include incorporation of already signed memoranda of understanding between the ministry and private players.”
Murerwa said government was also facilitating contract farming by providing tax and non-tax incentives to private players supporting the agrarian reform.