The deputy minister of agriculture and mechanisation, Davies Marapira, made the announcement while talking to dairy farmers in Masvingo.
The move could affect thousands of resettled farmers and communal land-owners who, since the early 2000s, have been given fertiliser and maize seed by the government in an attempt to improve production.
Instead of doling out free inputs, Marapira said the government would subsidise them by paying seed and fertiliser-producing companies as a way of making them affordable to the farmers, the majority of whom struggle to buy them.
“All farmers should know that it is not compulsory for government to give them free farming inputs. You were given land freely and now you come back asking for more (farmland) in order to abuse the free inputs facility,” said Marapira, who reminded farmers that taxpayers’ money paid for their free seed and fertiliser.
Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, said government would still give farmers free inputs for the current farming season, but Marapira has ordered political and traditional leaders not to take part in distribution.
The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and local communities will distribute the inputs to needy farmers to promote transparency, said Marapira.
There are reports of rampant abuse of the inputs scheme, with traditional leaders and Zanu (PF) officials being accused of using their positions to take the fertiliser and seed for their own use, at the expense of other farmers and opposition supporters in particular.
Farmers have complained that GMB officials collaborate with the traditional and political leaders to exclude them. Zanu (PF) has also been accused of using free inputs to buy votes during election time.
Omen Muza, a local banker and consultant in agricultural financing, told The Zimbabwean that the distribution of free inputs had not helped boost production but instead had created dependency.
“The intended stoppage of free inputs is a good idea. Looking at the experiences of the past few years, the inputs don’t seem to have translated into tangible production. Most of the inputs end up for sale on the black market,” said Muza. “The programme has instead created a negative culture among the farmers who now think they can only rely on handouts.”
The president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, Wonder Chabikwa, called for subsidised seed, fertiliser and other chemicals.
Vince Musewe, an economic analyst, said some of the farmers who had moved to profitable tobacco were still scrambling for free inputs, even though they could have saved to buy on their own.
“Tobacco pays well and most of the farmers have not handled that kind of money before. They spent the money on useless things instead of saving for the future. They should receive only 50 per cent of the money on the auction floors, with the rest being put into a fund to pay for inputs,” he told The Zimbabwean.Post published in: News