Cotton farmers cry foul over side marketing and compromised payment system

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By Anna Chibamu

SIDE marketing and an opaque payment system have left cotton farmers reeling, Parliament has heard.

Cotton Producers Association of Zimbabwe national chairman Stewart Mubonderi on Tuesday told the Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture that government needed to intervene if the sector is to be revived.

“Cotton is grown in marginalised areas and as such government intervened and brought the Presidential Input Scheme for seed but our farmers are being shortchanged by a poor pricing system.

“There are issues of side marketing and the mobile money payment facility which is being abused by shop owners who are demanding between 40-50% when farmers want to access cash or when paying for goods using the platform,” said Mubonderi.

“Cotton producer price is very low. The payment system or model done through mobile money facility leaves our farmers with nothing. There should be mechanisms to punish those ripping farmers today.”

Mubonderi also raised the issue of network in areas such as Mabeye, Chipinge, Gumunyu, Gokwe and Chadereka in Muzarabani.

The cotton farmers chairperson urged government to consider adopting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) whose introduction was rejected by former Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.

“We should start talking about GMOs to empower our farmers. Why not introduce them as well,” Mubonderi told the committee.

He also raised serious complaints around the 10% with-holding tax being charged farmers by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) on cotton farmers.

Mubonderi also launched a broadside on State owned Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) that he said had failed to represent the interests of farmers.

“We need more research on cotton varieties that suit the weather/ climate and increase production.

“AMA has not done so well. For over a decade now, there have been no recordings of what farmers are producing or planting, for example, in Checheche,” he added.

But his claims were immediately challenged by AMA acting chief executive officer Nancy Zitsanza.

“We need to be transparent in some of these issues. I think sometimes we need to be honest and tell the truth and avoid lying to the nation for the benefit of everyone,” Zitsanza told journalists after the hearing.