No to fresh farm occupations: Shiri

By Zvamaida Murwira

Government is pushing the issuance of 99-year leases and will not tolerate fresh farm occupations to ensure Command Agriculture succeeds as envisaged under Zim-Asset, a Cabinet minister has said.

Perrance Shiri being sworn in as the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement
Perrance Shiri being sworn in as the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement

Agriculture, Lands and Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said Government offer letters should be respected and that the law would come hard on those who seek to disrupt farming activities by legally resettled people.

Minister Shiri said this last Thursday at the launch of Command Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife in Harare.

“We realise as the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement that for all our aspirations to be realised we need total stability on the farms and to that effect we shall ensure that (illegal) farm occupations will not be tolerated anymore.

“Offer letters should be respected. The process of issuance of 99-year leases shall be expedited to allow long-term planning by the farmers and to also allow them to access funding,” said Minister Shiri.

He said the surveyor-general’s office would be expected to work all systems out to ensure that surveying of farms is carried out expeditiously.

“We shall ensure that dispute resolution is done timeously to ensure smooth operations on the farms. On the part of farmers, I would like to encourage you to seriously take farming as a business and also realise that Command Agriculture and farming are all about cost recovery. If you want to remain in this programme, you will have to respect your part of the bargain,” he said.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe chief executive, Mr Sij Biyam assured Government that financial institutions were ready to provide funding to agriculture.

“Our perspective of agriculture is very clear. One behalf of BAZ, I would like to confirm that all banks, I repeat, all banks, are totally committed to support agriculture and the downstream industries which derive their inputs from agriculture. It is always a question of the balance sheet size of the bank, the spreading of risk, the marketing/off-take arrangements,” said Mr Biyam.

“One of the observations that we make and we have always interacted with the Ministry of Finance and requested that part of the funding that we require to support the various sectors of the economy is sidelined through (the) crowding out activities of the Government where they issue Treasury Bills.

“To that extent, it then narrows down the amount of resources we can make available to the productive sector of the economy. If you look at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe publication of September 2017, it is actually indicating the extent to which some of those funds that have gone towards the support of other Government activities have militated against the banking sector’s support to agriculture.”

He said their wish as banks was to have support to agricultural sector increased from the current 19 percent to around 30 percent because it is the backbone of the economy.

“We have a lot of faith in agriculture and a lot of faith on what we are launching. Banks could be lending out more if there was no crowding out through the issuance of Treasury Bills,” said Mr Biyam.

“We have been talking of the modalites of rolling out the 99-year leases the basis of which was concluded last year. We are amenable to the 99-year leases subject to the issues that we raised being met; obviously the stop-order system which we hope the new Minister will address because we have had cases of side marketing,” he said. The Herald