THE cost of seed under the Presidential Input Scheme has risen by US$12 million this year after government split the controversial command agriculture programme and the input scheme following an outcry by some officials in the public and private sectors, it has been established.
By Bernard Mpofu
The split came after energy firm Sakunda Petroleum signed term sheets for the 2017/18 summer cropping season. Sakunda used to finance both the Presidential Input Scheme and the command agriculture programme, alongside other funders.
Sources close to the developments said Sakunda will now only finance command agriculture, while the state funds the presidential scheme.
Command agriculture is a government scheme initially aimed at producing two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of land, using farmers identified and given inputs, irrigation and mechanised equipment for the purpose.
“Government has decided to pay directly to seed companies for presidential inputs instead of taking a loan from Sakunda but now the price of seed went up from US$2 500 a tonne to US$3 200 a tonne for the presidential input scheme and 18 000 tonnes of seed are needed,” a government source said.
Last year, Sakunda contracted all seed companies to provide seed but following the split only two companies were contracted. The initial term sheet Sakunda had signed with the Finance ministry indicates that government would have paid US$45 million (US$2 500 a tonne) for the presidential scheme but now it is going to part with US$57 million.
This translates to a discrepancy of US$12 million on last year’s figures.
“Sakunda was a loan and government is paying directly for this seed. Government is paying directly so the expectation was that price should be low because government is paying upfront. This raises questions on the new cost structure,” the source said.
Questions sent to Agriculture minister Joseph Made were not responded to at the time of going to print.
In May this year, co-Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko — the two remaining liberation struggle stalwarts in government besides President Robert Mugabe and a few others — fiercely clashed in cabinet over the Command agriculture project and the official economic blueprint, ZimAsset.
Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who together with Mphoko belongs to First Lady Grace Mugabe’s G40 faction, has said command agriculture has largely been a failure as it has used US$500 million to contract 247 035 hectares of which 191 124ha (77%) were tilled, while only 153 102,6% (61%) were actually planted.
Zimbabwe has since 2001 relied on imports and foreign donors to meet demand for maize. Drought, lack of financing and the after-effects of the chaotic land reform programme which resulted in white commercial farmers losing large swathes of land have led to a decline in agricultural output over the years.
Meanwhile, government has banned grain imports to protect local farmers, just one year after a devastating drought left more than four million people in need of food aid.