Q: How are you going to attract these fabled foreign investors back if you want them?
A: We must look at how our economy is in that state. The answer is that, from the year 2000, when sanctions came in — the year 2000? It’s now 16, 17 years — 18 years of sanctions where our currency crashed totally to be meaningless totally, where lines of credit were cut overnight, where our lines of credit with countries literally or almost literally again came to a stop. That affected overnight — 44 per cent of our programmes suddenly were denied access to finance, access to lines of credit and the economy slumped, both the mining sector and the agriculture sector, and so on. But the last four years have seen the resurgence and recovery of our agricultural sector. You know our country is primarily an agricultural economy. Fortunately two years ago or thereabouts I was made responsible for agriculture and value-addition and appreciation, food security and nutrition. I was made responsible for those. Then I introduced “command agriculture”, you must have read about it. It was criticised . . . that it would fail and so on. But this is voluntary. What we did was that we said — Zimbabwe had insufficient food, it had food insecurity. For the last two, three decades we have suffered from food insecurity; importing food into Zimbabwe. But from this last season going forward, that won’t happen again. We have created a model which I championed or created where we say how much grain we want for the year to feed the country. We want 1.5m, 1.6m metric tonnes of grain to feed the nation and we need 0.5m metric tonnes of grain as a strategic reserve if anything happens, so altogether this gives you 2m metric tonnes. Now we say, how much land, how many hectares of land do we need to produce that amount of grain if a hectare gives you five tonnes as a minimum? This gives you 400,000 hectares of land to be put under grain. Then you say, now I want people to volunteer their land, if you have 200 hectares, 400 hectares, you may decide to say, I’m putting 50 hectares into the programme or the entire farm on to the programme or just a portion of the farm on to the programme. If you give us 100 hectares into the programme, my people worked out, they know how much diesel you’re going to use on 100 hectares, how much fertiliser you’re going to use on 100 hectares, how much seed you would want on 100 hectares, how much chemicals you’d use on 100 hectares and how much ploughing power you need for 100 hectares. We give you all that. So the farmer has not time to go and look for finance from the bank or go and look from a line of credit from an oil company or from a fertiliser company or from a chemical company; everything’s brought to your farm and there’s a programme which shows you how to prepare your land, when to plough and when to irrigate, when to spray and so on. You are guaranteed a minimum of five tonnes per hectare. The majority of us get far more than five tonnes per hectare. I am a farmer myself. If I get nine tonnes I will have failed but I always get 10 or more tonnes per hectare but the cost of running a hectare is about US$1,000 so three tonnes can pay for the hectare. If you have produced the minimum yield of five, you still have two tonnes for yourself after clearing your loan.
Q: So it’s about productivity . . .
A: Yes, the cost of productivity. I had an oversubscription of members coming on board and then how different is it? This is a six-month period. The fiscus, the Ministry of Finance has no capacity to provide that financing so what we did was at first I called all the oil companies, financial houses, fertiliser companies, chemical houses, the trade unions, farmers’ unions and so on, the stakeholders in agricultural production, all of them, for two days we met. Initially they were not co-operative; they said, government or this government was . . . We said, well, this is a new — we want to have a new situation and this is a model, you are guaranteed to get your money this time around. After interrogating the process and the model, they all agreed. Those who supply fuel have supplied it in advance; those who supply fertiliser supplied it in advance; chemicals the same . . . Everything was supplied in advance because they knew it’s tight. Every farmer would obviously produce five tonnes. The three tonnes will pay their loan — actually it’s two-point-something tonnes, which would pay the loan, so there’s an excess of two tonnes, so it went ahead.
Continued next page