New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: No More Free Inputs, Govt Tells Farmers

THE cash-strapped government, which for years spoon-fed beneficiaries of its controversial and often violent land reform programme, will not provide free inputs for the winter wheat crop this year.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told the Senate Thursday that A2 farmers who have relied on government for inputs since the farm invasions started nearly 10 years ago should not "expect" assistance from government this year.

"We will help them but not necessarily in terms of inputs," said Made.

"Our farmers got land over 10 years ago and should now be able to stand on their own. We do not have the financial resources and that is no secret. If anybody wants funding they should approach banks."

The minister said government still owes fertiliser companies millions and was struggling to service the debt.

Going forward, the government would provide A2 farmers with long-term funding for "infrastructural development", he added.

The Grain Marketing Board's failure to pay farmers for grain deliveries have also worsened farmers funding problems but Made said government would push the central grain buyer to honour its obligations.

Critics have urged government to give the new land owners title deeds which they could use as collateral when borrowing from financial institutions.

Government figures show that at least 2.2 million rural Zimbabweans need food aid.

Efforts to alleviate the plight of hungry villagers around the country have also been hampered by allegations that food hand-outs were being distributed on partisan lines by traditional leaders and activists from President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party.

The government defends its land reforms arguing the programme benefitted hundreds of thousands of black Zimbabweans who had been confined to rocky and unproductive patches of land while the most productive land were held by less than 5000 whites.

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