Government says it is troubled by late payments of cotton farmers by contractors including the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (COTTCO) which still owes textile growers over US$6.8m from last season.
Responding to questions on government policy over late payments to cotton farmers in parliament recently, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Anxious Masuka said his office summoned COTTCO who promised to clear the arrears by the end of November.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change legislator for Chipinge South, Clifford Hlatshwayo quizzed Masuka on why COTTCO was taking too long to settle payments to farmers in time.
“Farmers who delivered their cotton to COTTCO are yet to be paid. What is Government policy in paying those farmers so that they can go back to the land,” queried Hlatshwayo.
In response, Masuka said the government only played an oversight role between farmers and cotton contractors.
“What happens is that companies that deal with cotton and the cotton farmers will have to make arrangements but the Government will oversee that the cotton farmers have the necessary inputs and are paid in time,” said Masuka.
“Government looks forward to cotton companies paying the farmers on time so that they can prepare for the next farming season. I only know of COTTCO, these are the farmers that are behind in being paid. Government has 30% shareholding in COTTCO.
“We discussed about it yesterday and they said they still owe US$6.8m, and they have promised to pay their farmers before the end of this month as they are now able to sell the cotton.”
Following up on Masuka’s submissions, Hlatshwayo said the money owed to farmers was now being eroded by inflation due to late payments.
“I was suggesting that they be paid before the rains come. Farmers are worried about the non-payment of cotton delivered last year. The money is now being eroded by inflation and farmers are not being advised on the issue of payment, they are just assuming.
“Those companies that are representing farmers are not updating them,” said Hlatshwayo.
In response, Masuka added: “We said COTTCO is the one that has been owing farmers and they said right now they have $6.8 million that they expect to pay the farmers before the end of this month. I will repeat it before the end of this month. It is not the Government.
“It is the contractors that engaged the farmers and made contracts with farmers. Government is actually troubled by this. That is why we called them to tell us when they are going to pay the farmers and they assured us that they are going to pay before the end of this month.”
Masuka said that the government is currently enquiring to get terms and conditions agreed between farmers and contractors ahead of the farming season.
“We also need adequate information between all the contractors and the farmers so that we aggregate the information and see where there might be gaps in terms of information so that we ensure farmers are paid on time.” NewZimbabwe