HomeBusiness DigestGovt in fresh bid to lure farmers

Govt in fresh bid to lure farmers

Godfrey Marawanyika/Augustine Mukaro

THE government this week made another attempt to bring back “specialised” farmers as it seeks to revive the collapsed agricultural sector.

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZ) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) this week flighted an advert appealing to experienced flower and horticulture farmers to return, five years after they were violently evicted from the land. The EPZ and the RBZ requested skilled and experienced farmers to submit profiles for the rehabilitation programme.

Government wants to rehabilitate specialised farmers to improve exports. The two institutions requested skilled and experienced farmers to submit profiles for the rehabilitation programme of the horticulture sector.

“Suitably qualified institutions and individuals who have expertise in the flower sector rehabilitation programme, greenhouse construction, irrigation, flower marketing, rose propagation and rose stems supply as well as coldroom repairs, design and construction should submit profiles for consideration,” wrote the EPZ in the appeal.

“The profile should indicate the capacity which such companies or individuals have in their specific areas as well as proven record of their previous operations.”

This is one of the government’s numerous appeals to specialised farmers to return. Since the inception of the controversial land reform, flower production has plummeted to record low levels, costing Zimbabwe lucrative contracts in European markets.

Hortico and Kondozi, some of the biggest horticulture ventures, were among dozens of fresh produce exporting firms that were violently seized by government agents.

Kondozi Farm, which ceased operations last December, has since collapsed after being taken over by government’s Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda).

Over 100 EPZ projects have since collapsed due to farm invasions and financial problems. The numbers continue to rise with commercial farmers being thrown off their properties everyday. Efforts to lure back farmers have been widened to include farmers in the dairy sector, conservancies, beef cattle, as well as pigs, eggs and chicken producers.

Under the new plan, new investors or skilled former operators will be given special dispensation and guarantees of uninterrupted productive tenure of 5-10 years, backed by protection against disruptions.

The EPZ appeal could however hit a brick wall after Justice for Agriculture (JAG) told farmers to reject government offers until a favourable atmosphere prevails in the farming sector.

“Mindful of the present sad scenario and with due consideration to the disastrous history of this so-called ‘land reform programme’ and the illegalities and human rights abuses perpetrated therein, we remain emphatic that no farmers should return to their farms until our conditions are met,” Jag said in a caution to farmers.

JAG demanded a return to the rule of law countrywide, especially in commercial farming areas, and a restoration of the independence of the Judiciary and a repeal of all unjust laws.

It also called for “respect for and protection of property rights as enshrined in the present constitution, with international guarantees put in place, until a new constitution is enacted.”

JAG demanded that farmers be comprehensively compensated. It also said the farmers should be restituted under international law governing compulsory expropriation of land, improvements and moveable assets and the extensive damages claims.

Experts say the EPZ and RBZ’s efforts could come to nothing because the government continues to evict commercial farmers.

Sources say the new wave of evictions is meant to make way for government officials who were promoted to senior posts.

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