Government will in the near future consider repossessing underutilised farm land and allocate it to other potential beneficiaries, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri has said.
Minister Shiri indicated that Government had operationalised a wide range of schemes that farmers could choose from to make sure that the redistributed arable land is productively put to use for the country’s greater economic benefit.
Notable among the schemes was the recently relaxed joint venture scheme where the farmer can partner with a willing investor on agreed terms and conditions.
As it stands, the country is battling excessive food imports owing to a considerable number of both large and small-scale farmers that are not fully using the redistributed land although, of late, unpredictable the weather pattern is to blame for the lack of good yield.
In 2019 Zimbabwe imported US$26,7 million worth of maize with US$25,5 million worth in the last six months of the year.
The imports were meant to fend off hunger following a drought.
Other agriculture related imports include crude soya bean oil where US$72 million was spent, soya oil cake (US$12 million) and stock feeds related where US$16,6 million was spent.
In total, the country imported agriculture related products worth more than US$350 million.
In his 2020 Budget Statement, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube had projected the agriculture sector to grow by at least 5 percent in 2020 but such growth could be undermined by some who have taken pride in vast swathes of land which are not put to productive use.
In a recent ZBC radio interview Minister Shiri indicated that there would come a time when underutilised land will be repossessed, at the same time emphasising that farmers have for long been left in the cold by substantial number of financial institutions that have blocked them from accessing loans.
“The time will come when the Government may really consider taking back all underutilised land and allocate it to other potential users.
“. . . we have to try and support farmers as much as possible because these farmers have been abandoned by financial institutions, they are like orphans and Government has to be alive to that fact,” said Minister Shiri.
His comments are also in line with the 2020 National Budget Statement where Minister Ncube announced that starting in January 2020, Government will establish an appropriate financing plan which ensures early build up and ring-fencing of both local currency resources and foreign exchange in support of domestic inputs producers and importation of inputs.
Minister Shiri also highlighted that Government had crafted various schemes from which farmers could join and productively use the allocated land.
Minister Shiri emphasised that Government had relaxed the Joint Venture law for some large scale farmers who are able to attract financially strong partners to support agro activity.
“We expect every farmer who has been allocated land to utilise it, that is why Government came up with various schemes for the farmers, some can now go to financial institutions and borrow money we have got some that are now forthcoming.
“One can also access inputs through the Presidential Input Scheme, Command Agriculture, out-grower schemes and contract farming.
“Previously we used not to allow joint ventures but we have relaxed the law and our people are now free to borrow using land,” he said.
Zimbabwe made a name in the past as the bread basket of Africa as it produced enough food for local consumption and surplus for export.