from TINO PEPUKAI in Chiredzi
CHIREDZI, (CAJ News) – CHIREDZI cotton farmers are advocating for payment in foreign currency to cushion them from rising costs of producing the crop.
They want an arrangement currently prevailing in the tobacco sector where farmers are paid in United States dollars.
The farmers have formally advised the Cotton Producers and Marketing Association for the farmers to be paid in hard currency.
“We have written a letter to the Cotton Producers and Marketing Association so that the organization approaches the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in order for us to be paid in dollars like tobacco farmers,” cotton farmer, Gilbert Gapare, disclosed.
Gilbert Hlanga a cotton farmer from Mkwasine, said, “We are calling on the government to consider this issue of paying us in foreign currency seriously.”
He said the local currency, called the bond note, was losing value regularly.
“We feel we have to be rewarded for our hard work to produce the crop,” added Hlanga.
Luckson Mukochiwa, another farmer, was hopeful the Cotton Producers and Marketing Association would agree to their request.
“Most farmers have a good crop. We hope by the time we finish harvesting the crop, our proposal to be paid in foreign currency will have been given a nod by the government,” Mukochiwa said.
Steward Mubonderi, Cotton Producers and Marketing Association chairman, confirmed the proposal by farmers.
He said the organisation will soon meet with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials to discuss the issue.
“We believe farmers have a genuine cause and this has been long overdue,” Mubonderi said.
“We are engaging the RBZ before the onset of the marketing season to finalise this issue,” he said.
Munyaradzi Chikasha, Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) manager for Chiredzi district, told CAJ News they would only be able to pay farmers in foreign currency once government approved and made the money available.
“We will however continue to assist farmers with free farming inputs like what we have been doing all along,” Chikasha said.
Dr John Mangudya, RBZ governor, professed ignorance on the farmers’ demands.
“We have not received anything formal from the farmers regarding the issue,” Mangudya said.
Perrence Shiri, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister, was non-committal.
“I believe we have to consider all options to increase production but paying cotton farmers in foreign currency has never been considered,” Shiri said.
He however pledged government’s commitment to revive the textile industry.
“Paying farmers handsomely is one of the strategies to boost production,” Shiri said.
Zimbabwe’s cotton industry has nearly collapsed during the past decade due to side marketing, underfunding, fall in prices and the influx of second hand clothes from outside the country.
Some textile companies have closed down, rendering thousands of people jobless.
– CAJ News