Fear has gripped local farmers following the government’s ultimatum giving them up to the end of next week to submit production return forms with many believing it is a ploy by authorities to remove them from their land, Business Times can report.
The government is embarking on crop production assessment exercise throughout the country.
Initially, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Climate Change, set the submission of production returns by the end of January.
The deadline was extended to February 15.
A Banket farmer, Tendai Murahwa told Business Times that the evaluation of farmers’ productivity was part of the government’s ploy to “evict some farmers from their land”.
Murahwa questioned the government’s motives for farmers to submit forms during the Covid-19 pandemic which restricts human movement.
“Why the rush on wanting to evaluate people. Why can’t they bring in their personnel to visit farms and make their appraisals on the ground rather than to eliminate the farmers using forms like they are doing?” he queried.
He said while it was a given that there should be production on the land, losing a farm because one has failed to submit a form is wrong and does not reflect production on the ground as some will put up good numbers yet they are not doing as good as shown on the submitted papers.
“The reports we heard during those days of US$3.5bn white farmers’ compensation deal that the government was going to give back the land to white farmers seem to have some truth in it,” Murahwa said.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa said farmers required more time to assess production, fill in return forms and travel from the length and breadth of the country and they can submit “when the pandemic slows down”.
Farmers have stepped up production resulting in Zimbabwe breaking the 1998 tobacco production record of 236m kilogrammes (kg) by producing 258m kgs in 2019.In 2017, farmers harvested over 3.5m tonnes of grain against a requirement of 1.8m per year.
Some experts say Zimbabwean farmers lack financial support to utilise more land. This comes on the backdrop of banks’ reluctance to lend due to the absence of collateral.
Another farmer at Oribi Farm, in Juru, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was unfair for farmers to be moving up and down when government officials are in their homes and do not want to be exposed to the deadly pandemic.
“From the look of things, the agriculture minister and his colleagues want to remove some farmers under the guise of ‘use it or lose it’ policy to place their relatives or friends on the land,” the farmer said.
Another farmer in Wedza, Mashonaland East said: “We may not be doing as the government officials are doing in their farms as they inherited former white commercial farmers and are getting support from government and banks.”