The Herald Harare Tendai Mugabe
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Government has secured $150 million from the PTA bank to purchase highly-mechanised farming equipment for the Command Agriculture programme and dam construction, as efforts to ensure the nation’s food security gather momentum.The equipment is expected in the country between December this year and January next year.This comes at a time when the Government-initiated command agriculture programme yesterday received a major boost from several private companies that committed to work towards its success.

The Grain Millers’ Association and its stakeholders also came on board and promised to buy out at least 800 000 tonnes of the 2 million tonnes of maize expected to be produced under the command agriculture programme this farming season.

Some of the companies that committed to work with Government on this scheme are Southern Region Trading Company, National Foods and PHI Commodities, among others.

Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was the guest speaker during a tour of wheat farms under contract farming organised by the Grain Millers’ Association (GMA) in Makonde, Mashonaland West province yesterday said, the PTA loan facility would cover five sub-sectors of the economy, and was underpinned on ensuring that agriculture becomes the basis of industrialisation in the country.

« We have already secured some $150 million funding from PTA bank, to purchase irrigation equipment and, we have already ordered lots of irrigation equipment from friendly countries, » he said. »I believe this should be coming between December and January next year.

« Five sectors are covered — agriculture equipment, dam construction equipment, mechanisation of tractors and also Forestry Commission equipment is coming in. At least five sub-sectors of the economy are being covered by that loan facility. »

The Acting President said due to the overwhelming support of the programme from the private sector, starting next year, it would also include wheat and soya beans production.

He said this followed a high demand of soya beans and wheat by cooking oil and milling companies.As part of its contribution to the scheme, Southern Region Trading Company pledged 49 hours of chopper flights to Acting President Mnangagwa for the next seven months to ensure successful supervision of all projects under command agriculture.

National Foods and Blue Ribbon said the programme was a welcome move adding that they would also continue to support contract farming.With this support, he said the country would regain its breadbasket status in the next four farming seasons.

« We have accepted as a policy, to do contract farming, to bring technology (and) to mechanise agriculture, » said Acting President Mnangagwa. »We believe that if we all work together within the next three seasons and the fourth season as the deadline, we would have achieved full food sufficiency in this country and, bye-bye to importation of grain again. What we would have saved for importation, that money would be used for other developmental purposes in the country — retooling of our machinery, retooling of our factories and construction of infrastructure.

« The bedrock of this country is agriculture, so from now on, you will see us talking agriculture and the next step is the beneficiation: agro-business arising from agriculture. »

In this regard, Cde Mnangagwa said, Government was looking at setting up agro-processing units in farms as part of employment creation — a move that feeds into the Zim-Asset cluster of value addition and beneficiation.He said the private sector were critical stakeholders in Government’s efforts to revive the economy.

« In all this, we need all our industries to part. We are happy that the cooking oil people have come to approach us, and they are willing to support the growing of soya beans and we are happy that the GMA has come on board, » he said. »Our private sector has come 100 percent in support of what we are doing and I believe that this is the way to go. The biggest stakeholder in the economy is the private sector and we would want them to take the front seat. »

With regards to funding of the first phase of command agriculture, Cde Mnangagwa said: « I can assure you, we have far much more money offered to us than we needed. The difference was others were expensive, others were reasonably expensive, others actually reasonable.

« We took on board first those who were reasonable, that is, those who are able to give us funding at an interest rate between 5 and 7 percent. We are currently negotiating on several others who are offering 10 (percent), and the maximum offer is giving us 12 percent and I think that one is going to lose. »

Cde Mnangagwa tasked the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to come up with statistics showing the hectarage and amount of money required to produce 400 000 tonnes of wheat needed by the country annually before next winter wheat season.The GMA of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said they had the capacity to supply the country with enough flour for bread baking.

Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora and Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister David Marapira were also part of the tour.

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