Farmers have hailed the almost US$1 billion facility unveiled by the Government and private sector towards crop and livestock production during the 2013/14 season and urged authorities to ensure the support is availed to farmers timeously.This follows the announcement by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa of US$161 million support to agriculture on top of the US$620 million that the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe mobilised and the US$100 million that the CBZ Bank of Zimbabwe pumped into the sector last week.
Farmers said this showed that Government and the private partners took the agriculture industry seriously because of its importance to the economy.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the move was welcome, considering that farmers faced challenges with funding.
"Although the US$1billion is not enough for the sector, it will go a long way in helping farmers," he said. Mr Chabikwa said preference should be given to the rehabilitation of irrigation schemes and establishment of irrigation infrastructure. "We need irrigation facilities, especially these days when rainfall can be erratic. Irrigation is the only answer to erratic rainfall," he said.
Mr Chabikwa said it was important that if the money was going to be channelled through banks, that the interest rates should be reasonable and affordable to farmers.
Banks are offering short-term loans with high interest rates, with most farmers saying that would affect the US$1billion facility.
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo welcomed the development and said it showed Government had people at heart.
She said the inputs should be distributed equally to ensure every deserving farmer would benefit from the scheme.
"The funds should be given to productive farmers and a rigorous exercise should be carried out," she said.
"There have been cases where some people get loans intended for farmers and end up abusing them and buying cars at the expense of real farmers," she said.