By admin       2017-10-09

Cotton farmers in border-lying areas of Mashonaland Central have admitted to side-marketing the crop for which they received free inputs under the Presidential Well Wishers Agricultural Inputs Scheme through Cottco to Mozambique. The farmers appealed to Government to improve payment modalities to reduce cases of smuggling of the crop to neighbouring countries. The farmers were supported with free inputs under the Presidential Well Wishers Agricultural Inputs Scheme, but during marketing this year some of them ended up smuggling the crop to Mozambique where cash was available.Locally, they paid mainly through mobile network operator Econet’s EcoCash platform. Some of the affected farmers said there was poor Econet network in their areas and could not transact using EcoCash, while others said retailers in the area refused to accept the payment method. Muzarabani farmer Mr Dumbura Saunda said the use of Ecocash was new to most farmers, who did not understand how the whole process worked.“There is also poor network in our area and carrying out transactions is difficult,” he said. “Maybe, the service provider should improve network for the system to be more efficient. Some of the farmers had to climb trees to be able to get network connection and carry out transactions. Some of the elderly people did not even understand how to transact using the system and had to seek assistance from other people, which is not safe as it involves disclosing their secret access numbers.”Other farmers complained that local schools and clinics did not accept plastic money and only required cash if they wanted to pay school fees. Mrs Rambayi Maunganidze from the same area said she was charged between 12 and 15 percent whenever she used EcoCash to buy groceries.We could not get cash, but whenever we bought goods we were charged and this disadvantaged us,” she said. “It is better if we could get part of the money in cash.”Mr Takunda Chaneta said some farmers smuggled cotton to Mozambique and Zambia because there was ready cash.Cottco offered 47 cents per kilogramme, but Mozambican buyers offered 50 cents per kg and people were paid cash upon delivery,” he said. “The Mozambican buyers had lots of our bond notes, US dollars and Meticals (Mozambican currency) and farmers could choose the currency they wanted to be paid in.“Farmers smuggled the crop because of desperation. We do not want to destroy the company which is empowering us, but sometimes we are forced by circumstances to side-market. The farmers said they were assisted to smuggle the cotton by Mozambican officials who patrol the borders popularly known as “magwarimba”.Other farmers in the Ganganyama area of Rushinga said collection points were far away from their farms and it was easier to sell to Mozambique.“It was easy for farmers to sell the cotton in Mozambique considering that we are only six kilometres away from the buying point. I have to travel 11 kilometres to the nearest Cottco depot. Mozambican dealers set buying points nearer Zimbabwe to lure farmers. There should be mobile collection points to assist some of us who stay in the border-lying areas,” said the farmer.Some Mozambican farmers in Mafigu said they sometimes smuggled their cotton to Zimbabwe where the market was lucrative, but this season the plastic money was not favourable to them.

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