The Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) is being transformed to become a key agent in steering rural agricultural development to engender rural transformation that is key in making Zimbabwe an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Speaking at an ARDA workshop in Masvingo yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said ARDA’s work would entail rural industrialisation powered by agriculture.
Dr Masuka said ARDA was the food, fibre and bio-fuel security agent of the nation ahead of 2030.
Government wanted ARDA to grow the total areas under crops at its 21 estates around the country from the current 13 000ha to 88 000ha within the next three years, he said.
ARDA’s land-holding portfolio straddles 142 000ha at all its estates and Government wants the combined 88 000ha that is arable to be under different crops to consolidate revival of the agricultural sector.
Dr Masuka said as a vehicle for food, fibres and bio-fuel security, ARDA had potential to contribute 500 000 tonnes of cereals annually, 50 000 tonnes of fibre and a whopping 250 million litres of ethanol.
The authority was also key in engendering rural development and industrialisation through joint ventures with small scale private farmers and other investors.
Under the old dispensation, most ARDA estates around the country were idle and underutilised owing to years of neglect and lack of investment, but the authority’s fortunes have since taken a new trajectory and is awakening from slumber since the advent of the Second Republic.
Dr Masuka sat through several sessions where ARDA’s partners made presentations outlining their plans to ramp up production and help grow the economy via agriculture.
Turning to grain purchases, Dr Masuka said the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) will this week be in the market to float $40 billion worth of Agro Bills to finance grain and traditional grains purchases by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). Zimbabwe is this year expecting to rake in a record 2,8 million tonnes of maize, with $60 billion earmarked for grain purchases delivered to the GMB.
“We have an eye on the summer cropping season and AMA has started to mobilize a financing facility of $20 billion from the market,” said Dr Masuka. “This facility will be administered through the newly-styled Agricultural Finance Corporation to ensure that there are choices for farmers come the 2020/21 summer cropping season.
“The Command Agriculture Scheme and the Presidential Well-wishers Scheme will remain in place, but this AMA facility will be to augment so that Zimbabwe is food secure now and into the future. So, all in all AMA will mobilise $40 billion.”
Farmers continue to deliver their grain to GMB with delays in some areas being blamed on high moisture content of the staple grain.
Dr Masuka said AMA was being “transformed from being a levy collection authority, to a robust and vibrant agricultural marketing authority that mobilizes resources to ensure that agricultural development takes place.”
He revealed that this week, AMA will be in the market to float $40 billion worth of Agro Bills to finance grain and traditional grains purchases by GMB.