Zimbabwe: Treasury Releases $1,5bn to Pay Cotton Farmers

Freedom Mupanedemo — TREASURY has released $1,5 billion to bail out the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO) for payment of farmers and some growers have already started receiving their dues, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Fisheries Minister Dr Anxious Masuka has said.

Minister Masuka who was touring cotton ginneries in Gokwe at the weekend, said the money was enough to pay all cotton farmers owed by Cottco. He bemoaned the cotton price distortions by unscrupulous buyers.

"There were some unscrupulous people interfering with cotton prices and last year, there were unscrupulous buyers and that resulted in Cottco failing to pay all farmers. Government then banned mobile banking. Government has thus availed $1,5 billion owed to farmers across the country. President Mnangagwa said please pay the farmers and we have started to pay the farmers," said Dr Masuka.

He said all farmers who were being owed by Cottoco must visit their depots.

"So sent the word out there that President Mnangagwa has said that you must be paid for last year deliveries. Go to any Cottco offices and get paid," said Dr Masuka.

"It was never our intention to delay these payments, but as you might be aware, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that some of the resources had to be diverted to deal with the disease."

Cottco managing director Mr Pious Manamike said the company has already started paying farmers for last year's deliveries.

"We are starting with those farmers who have bank accounts and those who are using mobile money. We will eventually deal with those farmers with no payment platforms.

"We, however, urge every farmer to at least have a bank account as this makes payments easy. We will make sure that farmers across the country get to be treated equally," he said.

Some of the cotton farmers thanked the Government for addressing their plight.

Mrs Martha Sibanda from Nembudziya said life was really hard for them before this latest payment.

She said school fees needed to be paid adding that they were even failing to buy inputs for the 2021/2022 season.

"This is the best news in a very long time. I for one was contemplating quitting cotton production even though this has been part of our tradition since time immemorial. Now I can see that there is a future in the production of the crop," she said.

Cottco had been grappling with a $1,5 billion debt to farmers in outstanding payments for the cotton delivered to the country's largest cotton processing and marketing organisation.

Last year Cottco settled some of the debt by availing groceries and other basic commodities to the farmers.

Cotton demand on the international market took a huge knock last year following the outbreak of Covid-19, but the opening of economic activities has seen some improvement.

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