Biti Questions Govt Logic In Sinking $2.7b On Failed Wheat Farming Instead Of Fighting COVID-19

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By Staff Reporter

MDC Alliance Vice President Tendai Biti has questioned the logic behind government’s decision to commit $2.7 billion towards its controversial 2020 Command Winter Programme instead of injecting the scarce funds on fighting the spread of coronavirus.

Last week, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga announced government’s ambitious 415 000 tonne wheat production target for this year under a contract farming deal financed by commercial banks to the tune of $2.7 billion.

This will be an increase from 24 186 hectares last year to 80 000 this year. From the expected planted winter wheat, farmers would produce a surplus 15 000 tonnes, as Zimbabwe requires approximately 400 000 tonnes annually.

However, Zimbabwe has, since the start of the controversial land reform programme in 2000, not harvested enough wheat to meet national needs. Winter wheat was once one of Zimbabwe’s most successful crops.

Last year, the government under the Agriculture Ministry, launched the National Wheat Contract Farming Committee (NWCFC) to mobilise US$80 million for inputs and machinery for the production of at least 150 000 tonnes of wheat. However, nothing was heard of the facility after its launch.

This week, Biti questioned the logic behind government’s financing of the winter wheat production when previous attempts have dismally failed. He said instead, the $2.7 billion should have been diverted towards combating the spread of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.

“The regime which has just disbursed $2.7 billion on Command Wheat can’t build decent infrastructure for our people,” the former finance minister Biti said.

“It is failing to provide PPE (personal protective equipment) to respondents and has so far failed to buy a single test. The regime must wake up from its slumber, provide stimulus safety nets, test, track, isolate and treat people for coronavirus.”

Questions have also been raised from various quarters on what the government was doing to fund the fight against the impact of COVID-19 pandemic besides receiving donations from corporate partners.