Smooth transition in farm ownership vital — Nguni

Agriculture Deputy Minister, Sylvester Nguni, made the call last week when he opened the 45th annual congress of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association.

“There is need for some kind of handover-takeover to take place between the new farmer and the old farmer,” he said.

“The provincial authorities don’t seem to be in full control of the allocation process, that is from the time one is given an offer letter to the time one moves onto a farm,” he said.

The minister said this administration gap resulted in some new farmers immediately occupying the farms without giving the resident farmer time to wind up his operations.

Nguni said the government was against farm disruptions and would continue to act to ensure sanity prevails on farms.

He revealed that cases of farm disruptions were decreasing throughout the country except in Manicaland, parts of Mashonaland West and Masvingo.

On the issue of land tenure, the minister said farmers should not worry about the 99-year leases but concentrate on production since all land now belonged to the State.

“It is now a question of who is making the land productive, and not who owns the land, because following the amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act, all land now belongs to the State,” he said.

He said finalisation of the lease agreements was not going to be a quick process as the government wanted to look into issues of productivity before giving a farmer a lease agreement.

The farmers say the delay in the issuing of lease agreements is affecting their productivity, as most financial institutions are reluctant to fund them without proof of ownership of farms.

The government embarked on the land reform exercise in 2000 and is now finalising the programme, which has seen about 155 000 landless people getting pieces of land.

Nguni urged tobacco farmers to work towards producing a quality crop first and then increasing production, adding this was more beneficial as a quality crop fetches higher prices on the market.

He cited the obtaining firm prices on the auction floors this year, which are largely due to the quality crop on offer.

Current prices at the auction floors at US$1,82 cents per kilogramme are 50 percent above those of last year.

This year the industry expects a reduced crop of around 50 million kgs, down from 70 million kg last year.

Late disbursement of funds and inputs and a hyperinflationary environment prevailing in the country have been blamed for affecting production. ‘ New Ziana.

June 2006
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