GOVERNMENT will soon intervene and buy cotton from farmers if the current price impasse between growers and merchants is not resolved.
It has, however, not hinted on the prices it will offer for the cotton as it is yet to start mobilising the money for the programme.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said Cabinet had ordered him to intervene and save the farmers.
"Cabinet has advised us to start mobilising cash to buy cotton from farmers and sell it later when prices are firm on the international market," said Minister Made.
"As it stands, I think we may be forced to re-introduce the Cotton Marketing Board and buy all the cotton from the farmers to enable them to break even and plan for the next season.
"As Government we cannot afford to sit and watch farmers being ripped off. We set up the Agricultural Marketing Authority to assist farmers with marketing issues but the authority is not doing anything. AMA seems to be working in cahoots with the merchants."
Cotton merchants are offering between US$0,36 and US$0,50 for a kilogramme while farmers are demanding between US$0,85 and US$1,20 per kilogramme.
The prices the merchants are offering, which were agreed by all stakeholders in the industry, compare well with those farmers in the region are getting.
Farmers contend they will not be able to remain in business if they take what the ginners are offering while ginners on the other hand are arguing that lint prices have fallen on the international market owing to the low uptake of last season's stocks.
He said the quality of farmers' cotton would deteriorate because of prolonged storage and later fetch very low prices at the conclusion of the current impasse.
Minister Made said merchants were deliberately delaying any transactions for the cotton to lose its quality in farmers' warehouses so that it fetches very little on the market.
"We are also considering re-establishing other parastatals such as the Dairy Marketing Board, Zimace and the Cold Storage Commission to promote fair trading in products that fall under their jurisdictions," he said.
Minister Made also commented on the developments in the wheat industry, which he described as very disappointing.
"We have been told that Windmill Fertiliser Company have stopped moving fertiliser to Grain Marketing Board depots and have instead approached the Ministry of Industry and Commerce seeking clearance to export the product.
"Government is not going to allow fertiliser exports when local consumers are failing to get enough of the commodity. All fertiliser companies still co-operating with Government should therefore make fertiliser available so that farmers with the capacity can buy," he added.
Minister Made said the Government was also considering establishing its own fertiliser company -- the Zimbabwe National Fertiliser Company that would be involved in all Government inputs programmes.
"We have also been authorised to deal with the formulation of higher specification fertilisers that are credited with promoting very high yields and are similar to the ones Windmill wanted to export," he said.
Relations between Government and fertiliser companies had been on a record low over money Government owed the companies from last year's fertiliser deliveries.
The stalemate had ended recently with the fertiliser companies promising to start moving the product to GMB depots -- a move Government feels was not done in good faith as demonstrated by the sudden turn of events.
The minister also expressed concern on CBZ Bank's recent claims that it had not been consulted on the issue of vouchers that farmers were supposed to get from it for buying fertiliser at GMB depots.
"Government has not been forcing CBZ to use its own money but just issue vouchers. If they cannot do it we will deal with the farmers directly and our officers have already started working on it," Minister Made said.
He also revealed that the Ministry of Energy and Power Development had indicated that electricity supplies would improve and urged wheat farmers to continue planting.
"Farmers with adequate water resources must keep on planting up to June 15. They should not listen to uninformed advice from people bent on derailing the programme. We will chip in with input assistance for those farmers," said the minister.
He also revealed that Cabinet had ordered GMB to continue moving grain to the country's 35 most distressed districts that include areas in Matabeleland South, Manicaland and Masvingo.