Agriculture sector leads in uptake of stimulus package

Professor Mthuli Ncube

The agricultural sector has been the biggest beneficiary of the $18 billion Economic Rescue Package for distressed companies, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has said.

As part of measures to mitigate the adverse impact of Covid-19 in the country’s economy, Government announced the $18 billion Economic Rescue Package for distressed companies and other key sectors including social cushion to vulnerable groups.

The amount is equal to nine percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 28,6 percent of the 2020 National Budget. The fund is also envisaged to capacitate micro, small and medium enterprises and those in the informal sector.

In an interview in Gweru at the weekend, Prof Ncube, while not giving figures, said the agriculture sector has so far benefitted more from the rescue package.

“The biggest sector to benefit from the stimulus package so far is the agricultural sector especially the winter programme and now we are transitioning to the summer programme so that we make sure that the farmers get their inputs on time,” he said.

Prof Ncube said the economic rescue package was demand-driven and will be released to companies that would have applied for it.

“I must say that in terms of disbursements to industry, that has been slower because really it’s demand-driven. We cannot force it down to companies, they need to come forward, talk to their banks, talk to us and see the need for working capital.

“I don’t have the figures here with me but what I know is that the agricultural sector is leading in uptake of the stimulus package,” he said.

Prof Ncube said his ministry had also noticed that companies have been using the cash they have and have not approached banks to borrow funds.

“What we are noticing is that there is a good number of companies that are actually flashy with cash. They are not even borrowing, they are using their own cash. That’s ok, but they should know that Government is there and stands ready to support them.

“But what we have seen right now is that a bigger chunk is going to agriculture than industry. The tourism operators are beginning to make a draw down as well but there is a still a long way to go because the tourism sector is badly affected and should be next in line after agriculture,” he said.

Prof Ncube reiterated Government’s commitment to assisting industrial growth and wider economic transformation hence the stimulus package has been set aside to support needy players.

He urged economic players across different sectors to come forward and apply for the rescue package.

“We can support them. We have budgeted for it,” he said. – Herald