Government Owes Cotton farmers $1,5 billion

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By Anna Chibamu

Government has failed to pay cotton farmers their outstanding balance from last season amounting to $1,5 billion.
This came out during the Wednesday afternoon National Assembly question time when Zanu PF legislator Torerayi Moyo demanded to know when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) would release the owed amount to desperate farmers some whom had failed to plant the crop this past season as they waited for the money owed to them by treasury.
“Cotton farmers have not yet received their $1,5 billion for the 2020 season. Government promised to pay this balance through RBZ since April, 2021 but up to now, none payment has been done. Can the minister clarify modalities to this house being used to pay those farmers?” Moyo said.
Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka responded by saying the first batch had been disbursed for those who have opened bank accounts.
According to Masuka, transfer of funds to communities was suspended last year by Finance ministry as resources were being channeled towards Covid-19 containment measures.
“Transfer of funds was suspended last year and we all know what happened. Cotton farmers were not spared too. Government  is committed to pay the $1,5 billion owed to the cotton farmers since 2020. This arose of Zimbabwe being high cost of production and the international market price being lower,” Masuka said.
“We have started paying the farmers owed $1,5 billion with the first tranche of $66  million having been released by RBZ mid-last week. Treasury wanted verification of farmers’ data base from Cotton Company of Zimbabwe including their bank details. We could not continue holding the money because we did not want to inconvenience those who had supplied their accounting details,” he added.
However, some MPs were still not happy about the delays that had in some instances led to school kids or students failing to continue with education as most schools are now engaging in online learning which is expensive.
Legislators said some farmers have even died of stress related illnesses whilst others failed to return to the field because of delays in payment as they cannot afford inputs.