Kumbirai Tarusarira and Fradrick Gorwe
CBZ Holdings Limited has launched an agricultural finance initiative under a new division, CBZ Agro-Yield.
The financing initiative by the bank is meant to curb the ever-growing import bill with regards to agricultural produce.
This comes as the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed entity Cassava Smartech, also launched the Vaya tractor services on Wednesday to add to its Eco-farmer portfolio as the firm moves to mobilise support for the sector.
The CBZ initiative is a partnership between the bank and Government to sponsor soya bean and maize farming for the 2019\2020 season.
“This initiative is housed under a new division branded CBZ Agro-Yield. The new division will be the bank’s partner together with Government in financing maize and soya bean,” said CBZ in a statement.
Having locally produced beans will reduce the demand of imported Crude Degummed Soya Bean Oil (CDSBO) lessening the amount of foreign currency used for purchasing of the raw material.
Speaking to participants at the soya bean public seminar last month, Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlement Vangelis Haritatos, said the Government was looking forward to more private sector co-operation (funding) to achieve the desired soya bean yield.
The current scheme is restricted to maize and soya farmers. Those with irrigation facilities will be prioritised.
The bank said it will provide working capital for selected operations such as tillage and some labour, inputs will be distributed through agents and stockists to be advised to the farmers when their loan is approved.
“All input providers wishing to provide inputs must be referred to CBZ Agro-Yield for vetting and consideration. All the facilities will be paid back as a bullet payment upon delivery of crops to GMB. Facility maximum tenure will be 270 days at an interest of 10 percent per annum,” added CBZ.
The bank will provide working capital for selected operations such as tillage and some labour.
The country requires about 220 000 tonnes of soya bean annually for food, stock feed and other industrial needs.
Private sector funding remains key for the country to produce enough produce for local needs and surplus for the export market.
The Cassava Vaya service was officially launched by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Perrance Shiri in Harare on Wednesday.
The new platform will see farmers accessing Vaya tractor services through a mobile phone application. The platform is envisaged to provide farmers with the benefit of access, convenience, efficiency and value for money as part of Cassava’s efforts to complement the Government’s mechanisation drive. Services to be offered entail ploughing, discing, reaping, harvesting, planting, boom spraying, fertiliser spreading, ridging and trailer works.
Government, in need of about 40 000 tractors, currently has a shortfall of about 33 000 tractors and is enrolling the farm mechanization drive to boost productivity and ensure the country regain its breadbasket status in Africa.
Said Minister Shiri: “You are aware that as Government we are seized with programmes to boost agricultural productivity from our land. However, we have a deficit of 33 000 tractors, 10 000 planters and 500 combine harvesters.
“The introduction of such a service that is designed to optimally utilise the available equipment complements our efforts to boost productivity in our farms.
“Our role as Government is to facilitate and capacitate the farming community to ensure that our land is fully utilised for us to produce enough to feed the nation and to have excess to export. When that noble objective is achieved, we would have regained our status as the breadbasket of Africa.”
Cassava presently prides itself of over 2 000 Vaya tractors and about 1,4 million Eco-farmers, which numbers are expected to rise.
“As Eco-farmer we are not saying we are going to provide the remaining 33 000 tractors but we would like to deploy technology to make sure that the few we have are effectively and efficiently deployed,” said Cassava chief executive officer Eddie Chibi in justification of the launch.
“We are aware that ICT now plays a critical role in agriculture. When you look at the agriculture production chain, 37 percent is lost on harvesting, storage and transportation, between production and consumption.
“The world is moving from the physical market to the virtual marketplace. What we would want to do as Eco-farmer is to provide that marketplace digitally to enable farmers to get into the market. We want to use technology to bridge the gap between, researchers, farmers and extension workers.”
Vaya tractor services is testimony to Cassava’s efforts in helping break the digital divide between the rural and urban beneficiaries of its innovations.
The company claims it had become aware of challenges most farmers face which include inadequate water supplies, inadequate farm implements, market price transparency, reduced yields, and equipment under-utilisation.
As such, there is a wish to complement Government efforts through technology driven innovations as the farming season fast approaches and as part of “looking at possibilities to make life easier for communities”.