The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Government Urged to Support Farmers

GOVERNMENT should not hesitate to subsidise farmers in order to boost production on the farms as this is the norm elsewhere in the world, the Zanu-PF secretary for Land Reform and Resettlement Cde Ignatious Chombo has said.

Cde Chombo, who on Monday met with provincial governors from all the country's provinces and the Minister of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement Herbert Murerwa to discuss administrative issues affecting land reforms, said the meeting was of the view that Government was not funding agriculture.

The meeting called on the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti to release funds for agriculture on time.

"Farmers are not being supported in any way by Government. Government should not hesitate to subsidise farmers as this is the norm everywhere. In the EU farmers are subsidised.

"For instance, each cow in France is subsided to the tune of $2,50 a day," he said.

Cde Chombo said cotton prices were low because local farmers were competing with subsidised products on the international market.

Speaking during the meeting, Minister Murerwa who is deputy secretary for Land Reform and Resettlement, said Government had temporarily stopped acquisition of commercial farms covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements for resettlement. Minister Murerwa said that although the Constitution empowered Government to acquire farms covered under Bippa, the State has to pay compensation in full.

"If we take a Bippa farm we have to compensate for developments in full. People went on Bippa farms so Government is obliged to compensate," he said.

"Recently, we were brought to court by Dutch farmers. We lost the cases and we are obliged to compensate them.

"We will not take Bippa farms in the meantime. The policy is clear, we will not take the Bippa farms," Minister Murerwa said.

He was responding to questions from governors who demanded to know if people who still require land could be resettled on farms covered under Bippas.

The meeting heard that Masvingo province successfully acquired 95 percent of farms covered by Bippa without any hindrance save for one Italian citizen who is refusing to vacate a farm in Chiredzi.

Minister Murerwa urged farmers who benefited under the land reform programme to utilise the land fully.

"We have had the land reform for over 10 years. We must begin to eat the fruits of the land reform programme," he said.

Government embarked on the land reform programme over 10 years ago to address historical colonial land imbalances that saw about 4 000 farmers occupying over 70 percent of the country's arable land.

Hundreds of thousands of indigenous Zimbabweans have since benefited under the programme after Government resettled them on commercial farms formerly owned by the minority white farmers.

The successful land reform programme has angered European countries that slapped Zimbabwe with illegal sanctions at the instigation of Britain.

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