Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
THE Government is prioritising the agricultural sector as food shortages continue to bedevil the country and has set aside $3 billion for the Presidential Input Support Scheme to ensure early procurement and distribution of farming inputs and implements.

Addressing a Zanu-PF Midlands Provincial Co-ordinating Committee (PCC) in Gweru yesterday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the Government was footing a huge import bill to address food shortages and foreign currency inadequacies were causing food distribution interruptions.

Prof Ncube said this year Government would want to ensure that farmers receive inputs early ahead of the summer cropping season to ensure that they are fully prepared so as to have optimal utilisation of land which in turn will increase yield. He said the Government would also ensure that farmers access loans and farming implements early this year.

“As you already know our objectives around agriculture are to make sure that we have food security. We want everyone to be able to put food on the table. We have two programmes, we have the command Agriculture programme which is commercial and we also have the Presidential Input Support Scheme. We have been impacted by drought in the last season. For the winter wheat programme we have now started receiving grain and it is now the harvesting period. We did quite okay although we did not meet the target. The 80 000 ha were not quite rich. We probably achieved half of that.

“Coming to maize we also did not do well this year and we had to import. Our target is about 100 000 tonnes a month and that is our national demand. The challenges in the food distributions are as a result of shortages of foreign currency. It is not easy to find foreign currency to continuously import to make sure there is adequate food,” he said.

Prof Ncube said Covid-19 has had its ripple effects on farming as well as planning for the forthcoming season. He said Government has remained determined to promoting the agricultural sector to ensure optimal production.

“For the Presidential Input Support Scheme we have budgeted about $3 billion. We are going to be very speedy in the distribution of fertilisers seed. The process will start soon to make sure that we are ready for the season. We also have the Pfumvudza programme targeting small-scale farmers. We are training farmers. We also expect the agriculture sector to have a slight dip in terms of growth also as a result of Covid-19 we are however, determined to ensure farmers get inputs of time. We are also working with banks to ensure that farmers who would be under command agriculture access the credits on time,” he said.

Prof Ncube added that there has been a low turn up by vulnerable people to register to get a $300 cushion per month during the lockdown.

He said Government had budgeted about $2,4 billion to support vulnerable people during the lockdown.

“We want those that are vulnerable to register with the Social Welfare department for the $300 which will increase going forward. We are sincere about that because we had budgeted about $2,4 billion for this year. We want more people to register because our target was one million people but we have just over 200 000 people who have come forth and we want more people to register.”