Tawanda Mangoma in CHIREDZI
Government has slammed the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) for underpaying farmers delivering cotton to its depots countrywide. The company was also accused of expending its energy in fighting the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) through the media over farmers’ payments.Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made yesterday said Government had been disappointed by reports that Cottco was paying all cotton farmers Grade D cotton prices, despite 60 percent of this season’s crop being Grade A.
He said Cottco, if not monitored, might frustrate Government’s efforts to revive the cotton industry.
“(Cottco managing director Mr Pious) Manamike is trying to undermine cotton farmers by underpaying them,” said Dr Made. “They want farmers to boycott picking their cotton as they are paying them poor prices.
“We did our analysis as the ministry and we discovered that nearly 60 percent of the cotton grown across the country is of Grade A quality and I just wonder why they are paying 40 cents for the cotton, a price for Grade D cotton.”
Dr Made said AMA and Cottco should start grading cotton at all buying points.
“AMA and Cottco must make sure that preliminary grading facilities are established at all buying points,” he said. “They can’t tell me that cotton will be graded at 20 points across the country. This is the joke of the year.
“Farmers must be paid according to grade and this must be done at every buying point. Anyone who goes out of this directive will not only be undermining me, but also the farmer, Reserve Bank Governor and Minister of Finance and Economic Development.’’
Dr Made said funds for the purchase of more grading equipment were available.
“We are just coming out of a meeting with (RBZ) Governor (Dr John) Mangudya and Minister (of Finance Patrick) Chinamasa in which we finalised that funds for the purchase of more grading equipment are available, hence Cottco must take necessary steps so that these tools are availed,” he said.
Dr Made said his ministry’s initial target was to have over 400 000 farmers benefiting from the inputs disbursed under the $45 million inputs facility, but Cottco only disbursed money to about 120 000 farmers.
“Cottco has been denying other farmers inputs, they decided to give one farmer inputs for three or five hectares, while others failed to get inputs even for one hectare,” he said.
“Every farmer must grow cotton in Zimbabwe. They must give each farmer inputs for one hectare and we want to see more than 400 000 households growing cotton next season, instead of the 120 000 who benefited this year.”
Dr Made challenged all departments under his ministry to desist from bringing their disputes to the media since there were official platforms for that.
“This is now a warning to all departments under the Ministry of Agriculture, I don’t want issues from my ministry to be discussed through the press,” he said.
“I think we just have to be respectful and stop engaging in unnecessary war of words.”