Government Dismisses Claims of Owed Millions to Zimbabwe Seed Companies

Disputed Debts: Zimbabwe Government vs Seed Association – The Battle Over Millions

by Oluwatosin Alabi

In a significant rebuttal, the Zimbabwean Government has categorically denied allegations by the Zimbabwe Seed Association (ZSA) of owing a staggering US$61.778 million to seed houses for seeds supplied for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

The controversy surfaced when ZSA, on November 18, 2023, issued a statement naming 11 association members, including ARDA, Easiseeds, and Seed Co, among others. They claimed these companies were owed millions by the Government under the Presidential Inputs Programme (PIP). The association alleged that payments for seed supplied in the 2022/23 season were below 50%, and almost all seed supplied in the current season remained unpaid.

However, the Government’s response, articulated by the Permanent Secretary of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Obert Jiri, in an interview with The Manica Post, painted a different picture. Jiri emphasized that the Government does not contract all the 11 companies listed by ZSA. He urged the association to distinguish between inter-company debts and those owed by the Government.

“The Government is not in a contract with all these 11 companies,” Jiri stated, urging for a breakdown of the exact amounts owed to each company and clarity on internal trading debts among the seed houses.

The denial comes at a critical juncture for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. The Government, known as the largest buyer of seed, distributes it to numerous smallholder farmers across the country under initiatives like Pfumvudza/Intwasa. The alleged non-payment has led to serious financial distress among seed companies, with repercussions including staff layoffs, production cutbacks, and reluctance from growers to sign new contracts due to unpaid deliveries for 2023.

The seed companies, already struggling to secure foreign currency for crucial imports such as hybrid and parental seeds, are reportedly defaulting on bank loans. This situation hampers localised certified seed production, crucial for the country’s agricultural productivity.

In response to these challenges, ZSA had reportedly requested US$15.5 million in assistance from the government for six seed producers, a plea that has, so far, not been addressed.

This development raises serious concerns about the future of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, particularly as it relates to the availability of quality seed for upcoming planting seasons. The dispute underscores the complexities of government and private sector interactions in crucial industries like agriculture, which is a backbone of the Zimbabwean economy.

The situation remains tense as both parties stand firm in their positions, with the seed companies awaiting resolution and the Government maintaining its stance against the alleged blanket accusations. As this unfolds, the impact on Zimbabwe’s agricultural productivity and smallholder farmers remains a critical concern, warranting close monitoring and swift resolution.

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