Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zanu PF ministers loot farming inputs

Zanu PF ministers loot farming inputs

Friday, 17 February 2012 11:10

Owen Gagare

ZANU PF ministers and other influential officials are under investigation 
for plundering  Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots and looting inputs for 
the 2011/12 agricultural season, particularly fertiliser, thus sabotaging 
agricultural production at a time when starvation is stalking some regions 
of the country.
The move, which has angered small-scale farmers and villagers, would have a 
profound effect on the country’s food security situation and Zanu PF’s 
political fortunes during the next elections.

Zimbabwe is facing a major food crisis after the Agricultural Technical and 
Extension Services revealed only 247 000 hectares of maize was planted 
countrywide by December 31 last year, down from 379 993 during the previous 
farming season.

Under pressure, President Robert Mugabe and cabinet recently deliberated on 
the issue and instructed Agriculture minister Joseph Made to provide details 
of who got what and when. The GMB is currently compiling a list of those who 
plundered its depots.

Ironically, Made and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus 
Mutasa are among the ministers named in the inputs scam. Details show Mutasa 
got 30 tonnes of top dressing fertiliser. Although this was within the 
acceptable range for A2 farmers, those who failed to acquire a single bag 
are complaining that he used his political muscle to grab the inputs.

Several other A2 farmers among them politicians, senior civil servants and 
service chiefs, who were given farms during the controversial land reform 
programme, also received large amounts of inputs.

While ministers and other powerful people collected their inputs in trucks, 
villagers waited in vain with empty wheelbarrows.  At some depots A2 farmers 
reportedly grabbed the entire stocks as helpless villagers stood in queues.

Officials said some influential A2 farmers accessed up to 40 tonnes of basal 
fertiliser and an additional 40 tonnes of top dressing fertiliser, resulting 
in the outcry.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed Mugabe was aware of 
complaints from villagers, but said some of the problems were caused by an 
arrangement by GMB managers to pay A2 farmers for the produce they had 
delivered using inputs.

He said this had resulted in A2 farmers, “who include ministers and MPs”, 
taking all inputs at some depots, angering villagers.

“There is so much bitterness and even in my rural home Buhera, people are 
not happy. For some strange reason, there was a decision by GMB managers, 
that farmers could get inputs from some depots as payment for the produce 
they had delivered,” said Charamba.

“This resulted in some A2 farmers getting AN fertiliser while other persons 
were waiting and in some cases all of it was wiped out as they watched. The 
farmers were getting their value, but naturally that was not understood by 
those who failed to get the inputs. Where a commodity is in short supply, 
you are bound to have distribution apprehensions.”

Made yesterday blamed GMB managers for the problem, accusing them of failing 
to give fertiliser to communal A1 farmers and those in the old resettlement 

He said his ministry wanted to know why GMB officials gave fertiliser to A2 
farmers and excluded the needy farmers who were given seeds only.

Made said: “The problem was that GMB managers gave maximum allocation of 
fertiliser to A2 farmers when it was clear that the product was in short 
supply. Logically the GMB managers should have used their rational in giving 
out the fertilizer. It does not make sense to give A2 farmers lorries full 
of fertiliser while villagers are waiting with wheelbarrows but failing to 
access the commodity”.

The minister added: “There was irresponsibility on behalf of GMB managers at 
depots even in communal areas. As a manager if you are inundated with 1000 
farmers waiting to get fertiliser then you only give one or two farmers then 
there is something wrong with you.”

Made said he has since ordered an audit at GMB to know who got what. He said 
cabinet had also directed Finance minister Tendai Biti to pay for 3 800 
metric tonnes of urea fertiliser which, however, still falls short of the 
national requirement.

With predictions by the Meteorological Department that there are going to be 
rains for the next two months a lot of leaching was to be expected hence a 
higher demand of the fertiliser, he said.

Charles Taffs,  president of the Commercial Farmers Union, said this week 
the hectarage had since gone up to about a million, but the country needs 
about two million tones although is likely to harvest around 600 000 tonnes. 
This will result in a massive shortfall of 1,4 million tonnes.

The low yields are a result of the combination of late planting, nitrogen 
shortage and excessive rains for the late planted crop.

The country produced about 1,5 tonnes of maize in the 2010/11 season, but 
still had to import to meet the national need.

The Zimbabwe Farmers Union, which represents the majority of small-scale 
farmers, said most farmers had written off their crop after failing to 
acquire fertiliser.

“There has been a massive shortage of AN fertiliser on the market. The acute 
shortage of that commodity, coupled with the late onset of rains would be 
the principal reason explaining the possibility of a reduction in yields 
this season,” said the ZFU chief economist Prince Kuipa.

“It is a sad situation really and it is too late even if top dressing 
fertiliser becomes available…Most farmers have already written off their 
crop as a result of the shortage.”

Zanu PF is said to be pushing for an investigation because it believes the 
abuse will cost the party votes in next crucial elections either this year 
or next year.

The MDC formations are bitter because they believe the inputs were 
distributed along partisan political lines.

Officials in the Ministry of Agriculture said Zanu PF bigwigs took advantage 
of the policy inconsistencies and poor planning by the ministry to grab the 
fertiliser from GMB depots countrywide starting December 29 last year.

They said there was now tremendous pressure on the ministry to justify its 
distribution criteria. As a result, the ministry last week directed GMB to 
stop giving fertilizer to A2 farmers while other categories of farmers were 
limited to only one bag.

“Please note that no fertiliser will be allocated to A2 farmers under the 
current input loan scheme anymore,” reads part of a letter written to GMB by 
the permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka dated February 8.

This followed a December 28 directive from the ministry to allow GMB to give 
A2 farmers a maximum of 40 tonnes each of basal and top dressing fertiliser 
while communal farmers were only allowed to access 25 kgs.

After the directive, GMB generated an internal circular (79 of 2001) 
advising depot managers to follow the ministry’s instructions

On January 11, the ministry issued another directive for the tonnage to be 
reduced from 40 tonnes to 20 tonnes after it became apparent the shortages 
were severe. The tonnage was further reduced, leading to last week’s 
directive to stop A2 farmers from accessing fertiliser.

“The problem is that by the time the tonnage was reduced most chefs had 
already acquired large stocks, leaving very little for the ordinary people. 
It has to be noted however that there were shortages already because 
government only managed to acquire 32% of the required stock, so the 
majority of farmers were destined to lose out,” said the official.

“What worsened the problem is that the ministry allowed some people to get 
about 40 tonnes while others failed to get a single bag. This has caused 
serious problems.”

GMB corporate communications manager Muriel Zemura said her organisation had 
not acted corruptly but merely followed the ministry’s guidelines on 
distributing inputs.


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