By ZBC Reporter
The National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme (NEAPS), commonly known as Command Agriculture, or Special Agriculture Programme for Import Substitution, initiated in 2016, has laid a solid foundation for ensuring national food security, accelerating import substitution, increasing employment, improving incomes and livelihoods and has provided a basis for broadening agricultural exports.
Over 15 000 farmers benefit from this NEAPS annually, while over 2.3 million small-holder farmers benefit from social protection schemes annually.
This was revealed by the Minister of Lands,Agriculture,Fisheries,Water and Rural Resettlement Hon Anxious Masuka in a statement on the National Enhanced Agricultural Production Scheme (Command Agriculture)Loan Recoveries.
He indicated that the success of the programme is instrumental in the agricultural sector hence the repayment of loans is critical to see that success through.
The success of NEAPS is pivotal for sustainable financing of the agricultural sector. The success of NEAPS is dependent on repayment of loans by farmers, avoidance of side-marketing, and restoration of financial discipline and ethical conduct in the conduct of business by all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain,he said.
In that regard government put in place laws to ensure that there is no side marketing of crops and that farmers pay back loans on time.
Government has issued Statutory Instruments (SI 247 of 2018, SI 145 of 2019, SI 96, SI97 and SI 188 of 2021) to protect contractors, including government. Farmers have overwhelmingly supported these Instruments by honouring their obligations. We thank these farmers for this effort.
However,this has not been the case in most instances prompting government to act.
Unfortunately, some farmers have ignored these SIs and have gone ahead and side-marketed their crops prejudicing contractors and jeopardising repayments to banks that funded the NEAPS. There are unscrupulous farmers that have been abusing the NEAPS. These farmers are taking inputs and misusing them, while other farmers are not repaying their debts, even if they have capacity to do so,he added.
In dealing with the rotten apples,government therefore came up wth the following resolutions:
- Farmers who have fully paid their debts will be immediately enrolled for the 2021/2022 season.
- Farmers with outstanding debts will not be enrolled for the 2021/2022 season until they have made an immediate payment of at least 50% of the 2020/21 Summer Season total loan amount by September 31, 2021
- Made a Repayment of at least 80% of the 2020/21 Summer Season total loan amount by November 30, 2021.
- Signed a commitment with an asset pledge to pay the Programme in full before the onset of 2021/2022 season.
Banks that lend to farmers who have not fulfilled the above have also been warned that they will be liable for any defaults.