THE government on Wednesday announced a US$161 million Agriculture Input Support Programme for the 2013/4 farming season, targeted at 1.6 million households.
The Input support programme targets communal, old resettlement, small scale and A1 scale and A 1 farmers.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and his Finance counterpart Patrick Chinamasa unveiled the programme at a joint press conference in Harare.
The two ministers said delayed payments to farmers had to be addressed to avoid compromising their capacity to prepare for coming season.
Under the scheme, each household will be given 50kg of Compound D fertiliser, 50kg of ammonium nitrate (AN), 50kg of lime and 10kg maize seed pack.
Chinamasa also said the government had resolved to pay the outstanding payments to input suppliers, which stand at US$11.8 million.
"We have given instructions for the money to be delivered straight away."
Government owes US$9.75 million to the seed houses split between Pannar at US$2.02 million, Pioneer US$3.72 million and SeedCo at US$4 million. They also owe ZFC US$1.54 million and Nyiombo US$500,000.
Made said Cabinet on Tuesday agreed not to be actively involved in the day-to-day running of farmers' operations.
"It (this year) will be the last time government would actively be involved in the day-to-day running of farmers. If farmers are paid on time they should be able to buy their own inputs with limited government support that is how farming should be," he said.
"This is not to say farmers can or should finance themselves because that is where banks come in but they (banks) have their own requirements," Made said.
Made said government would subsidies farmers in the event of events such as drought. He said government would not allow Genetically Modified crops in Zimbabwe going forward to protect the country's seed industry and crops.
He said government had also disbursed outstanding US$9,2 million payment to farmers for grain deliveries to the GMB under the current grain marketing season, while noting that deliveries had risen by about 2 million tonnes ever since people got wind the government was going to pay.
"This demonstrates our commitment to agriculture as this is the backbone which will trigger economic growth. Everything else should rotate within agriculture, we believe in establishing linkages with every other sector. It is important to note that such a scheme should have been more focused had we done the preparations earlier," Made said.
Chinamasa said the country has about 44,000t of fertiliser but the country's requirements are in excess of 400,000t.
"As a result the country will need to import the balance."
But Chinamasa said there is adequate seed in the country. In total, 16,285t of seed would be required. Seed houses have indicated they are holding 56,174t.
Of the US$161 million, US$157.96 million would go towards seed and fertiliser while the remainder will go towards GMB handling costs (US$2.60 million) and DDF tractor rehabilitation costs (US$530,000).
The Food and Agriculture Organisation, working with mostly Western countries, has indicated readiness to partner the government to the tune of US$19.5 million targeting 77,800 small holder farmers.
Chinamasa said discussions with the banks over A2 and commercial farmers' funding were ongoing. The minister also said the input programme extended to livestock where farmers have a choice between crop or livestock but the values will be equal.
The fertiliser industry will require injection of financial resources to increase their capacity to meet the national requirement. To that end, Chinamasa said government had secured collaboration with the private sector geared at providing financial facilities in support of production of agricultural inputs.