Government to sideline farmers who have not paid their debts

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Chris Mahove 

Government says it will review its contract agreements with farmers for this cropping season and will not finance those that have not paid their debts from last season.

In a statement,  Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Anxious Masuka said the contracts were being strengthened to discourage side-marketing , non-performance and under-performance by farmers enrolled under National Enhanced Agricultural Production Scheme {NEAPS}, also known as Command Agriculture.

“Farmers who have fully paid their debts will be immediately enrolled for the 2021/2022 season. Framers with outstanding debts will not be enrolled until they have made immediate payment of at least 50% of the 2021 summer season total loan amount by September 30, 2021,” he said.

He added that those that would have made a repayment of at least 80 per cent of the 2021 summer season total loan amount by November 30, 2021 would also be considered, so will be those who would have signed a commitment with a pledge to repay the programme in full before the onset of the 2021/2022 season.

Minister Masuka warned that banks who would lend to farmers who would not have met the said conditions that they would be liable for any defaulters.

“Additional measures will be taken and all national payment platfprms will be activated to ensure repayments by defaulting farmers, including submission of names to the Financial Clearing  Bureau,” he said.

He said farmers who were not paying back their loans or misusing the inputs were threatening the viability and sustainable financing of the programme.

He said  some unscrupulous farmers were reluctant to re-pay their loans even when they had the capacity  while others were receiving inputs and misusing them.

Minister Masuka said although some farmers had overwhelmingly supported Statutory Instruments 247 of 2018, 145 of 209 and 197 and 188 of 2021, which protected contractors and the government, some farmers were side marketing their produce, prejudicing repayments to banks that funded the programme.

“The success of the NEAPS is dependent on repayment of loans by farmers, avoidance of side marketing  and restoration of financial discipline Aand ethical conduct of business by stakeholders in the agriculture value chain,” he said.

He said government backs NEAPS through a government guarantee to banks that raise capital to lend to farmers to enhance local production through concessionary loans.

“Government has assisted to ensure NEAPS is well funded with the ultimate goal of converting repayments from recoveries into a revolving fund.This allows current and new farmers to continue benefitting from the programme,” he said.

More than 15 000 farmers benefit from the NEAPS programmes and in excess of  2 million smallholder farmers benefit from social protection schemes annually.

The fiscus supports vulnerable families with inputs under the Productive Social Protection Scheme, also known as the Presidential Input Scheme while the private sector finances  commercial farming activities.

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