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October 17, 2011

Zimbabwe sugarcane farmers get outsourcing lifeline

by Emilia Zindi

Hundreds of farmers in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld sugarcane growing area who were set to lose farms for failing to utilise land productively have been thrown a lifeline after sugar milling company Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe unveiled a US$3,5 million credit facility.

Under the facility, the farmers are expected to receive fertiliser, seed, pesticide, herbicide, fuel and tillage services during the 2011/2012 summer cropping season. The firm has also pledged to settle their water and electricity bills.

Commercial Sugarcane Farmers’ Association of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Daniel Tsingo said the initiative would ensure growers rehabilitate farms where the crop is more than 10 years old.

Under the scheme, the firm will provide tractors, rippers, disc harrows and ridgers for land preparation. Agro-chemicals and labour are also part of the package.

Each farmer will get assistance on 10 hectares over two seasons with the more than 600 farmers in the region expected to rehabilitate a cumulative 12 000 hectares.

“If the crop is fed well, one would produce between 80 and 100 tonnes of raw sugarcane. Eight tonnes of the cane can produce a tonne of sugar,” said Hezekiah Mhunduru, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme. “This scheme is different because there is no demand for collateral. All we have to do is pay back through the harvest we will deliver to the company. Also important to note is the fact that there is no way input prices can be inflated. Everything is in black and white.’’

Mr Micah Sinaravo said: “I really appreciate this scheme because I do not have the requisite equipment to make for a viable farming venture. This initiative has come at the right time.”

Most farmers in the region were allocated properties under the land reform programme. They, however, failed to fully utilise the farms owing to crippling financial challenges. The farmers could not rehabilitate flood irrigation systems and plant the crop anew.
This resulted in large portions of land lying idle for years.

Local district lands committees subsequently recommended that the farms be repossessed, a move the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement thwarted.

Sunday Mail

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