BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

GOVERNMENT yesterday admitted before Parliament that it owes cotton farmers more than $1,5 billion, which has crippled cotton farming in the country as farmers are constrained in preparing for the new summer cropping season.

This was disclosed by Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement minister Anxious Masuka during yesterday’s National Assembly question-and-answer session.

Masuka said government was aware of the debt, adding that payments were expected to begin to be rolled out to farmers next week.

“We are aware that the government owes farmers more than $1, 5 billion and we expect to pay them by next week. The farmers must not stop preparing for the next season,” Masuka said.

The minister also said that government was currently assisting more than 400 000 cotton farmers with inputs under the presidential inputs support scheme, adding that that would help the farmers to kickstart their season.

“The government has identified more than 400 000 cotton farmers to assist them with the presidential inputs support scheme and this will cushion them as they are waiting for their money.”

He said the government had devised a way of paying farmers after mobile money transfers were suspended by monetary authorities.

During previous seasons, cotton farmers were being paid through EcoCash mobile money transfer but the government suspended it saying the system caused inflation.

This comes at a time the Cotton Producers and Marketers Association chairman Stewart Mubonderi last week wrote a letter to Parliament, asking the House to address the problems cotton farmers were facing.

Mubonderi said cotton prices should be reviewed weekly in accordance with the foreign currency auction system.

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