By Anna Chibamu
LANDS and agriculture minister Anxious Masuka says wheat farmers struggling to pay water and electricity bills can now use a stop-order facility to avoid production interruptions.
The minister was responding in Parliament last week to Zanu PF Bindura South MP Remigious Matangira after he raised concerns over water supply cuts by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) during this winter cropping season.
“There is shortage of wheat,” said the legislator.
“What is the government policy regarding the operations of ZINWA which is disconnecting water whereas they are aware that wheat is one of our staple foods?
“Is the ministry able to rectify this challenge so that wheat crop farmers are not affected by water cuts?”
Responding, minister Masuku said; “Regarding water, farmers in specific areas should write to the ministry so that we address this.
“However, to the general populace, government has a policy that there should be a stop order that when they take their wheat to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), they are given money for electricity, water and other overheads.”
However, Matangira told Masuka that the maize crop delivered to the GMB had not been paid for.
“We have to do maintenance work and electricity needs to be paid in USD. How best can we help the nation? Can we go and put stop orders? They are refusing at GMB, are you aware of that Hon. minister?”
Norton MP Temba Mliswa also chipped in, asking; “What measures has government put in place to ensure farmers keep farming in spite of the inflationary environment because the money for maize would have lost value and they cannot pay for electricity?”
Masuka explained that; “Government is already cognisant of the suffering that Zimbabweans are going through and has put this framework (stop order facility) to cushion farmers for the effort.
“The stop order facilities that we are talking about are payable in Zimbabwe dollars for water and electricity and this is the environment that we are creating to ensure that farming can be sustained.”
MPs queried the rationale of undertaking profitable farming when inputs such as fertiliser are now beyond the reach of farmers.