‘Banks’ rejection of 99-year leases no excuse for poor performance’

The Herald

Elton Manguwo

FARMERS must take advantage of the enabling environment Government has created through its various support programmes to increase production and not be distracted by banks’ refusal to accept 99-year leases as collateral for use in borrowing.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the issue of security of tenure was a myth that had largely remained more of a mirage than a real stumbling block to agricultural productivity.

Out of the current 23 000 A2 farmers, only 460 farmers are producing on their allocated land. Dr Masuka challenged farmers to maximise production on their respective farms in an effort to attain food, feed and seed security for the nation in line with the country’s push to transform the economy into an upper-middle-income one by 2030.

The concept behind making 99-year leases bankable was to provide farmers with an asset they can use as collateral when seeking capital from financial institutions.

The Minister further highlighted that one could still securitise borrowing on the strength of their enterprises and productivity as a farmer, that is, having a business set-up on the farm where farming processes show a certain level of professionalism.

The bulk of A2 farmers do not have 99-year leases, hence the push by the Government to try and increase the number of farmers with 99-year leases through an ‘omnibus of agrarian reform laws that seek to accelerate the process of farmers acquiring the leases rather than applying for them.

Farmers will only have to complete an annual production and productivity form to get their leases, he explained.

Such an arrangement would not only be a line for farmers to access their leases but would also promote production and maximum land utilisation while giving a platform for the Ministry to audit land use.

He added: “There will not be an increase in production just because 99-year leases have been accepted as bankable assets. Rather, productivity will only increase if farmers are sure of themselves and confident in the land reform programme.”

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) secretary general Mr Paul Zakariya echoed the Minister’s sentiments saying farmers could still explore other ways of convincing banks of their eligibility to qualify for loans.

“Value chain financing is also a viable avenue that farmers can explore in order to borrow by having a good crop that is insured, safe agronomic practices and good returns on produce that is supported by an off-take market,” said Mr Zakariya.

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