GWERU: The Zimbabwe Cotton Company (Cottco) managing director, Pious Manamike yesterday said the groceries that were being offered as payment to Gokwe cotton farmers were not forced on anyone and added that famers had a choice to wait for cash payments.
Speaking during a Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) workshop held at a local hotel in Gweru, Manamike also said that the company was broke and resorted to coming up with strategies to lessen an extended debt since they already owe famers from yesteryears’ harvest.
“We are giving cotton famers groceries as payment but no one is forced to take this form of payment. Farmers just had to choose either to wait for money or get groceries.
“The major challenge we are facing is we are broke and company needs money to pay famers for what they gave us even last year. We have however approached government to assist with funds so that we settle existing debts,” he said.
During the time the program was being implemented, Gokwe famers however questioned how the company was able to pay for groceries while it failed to pay them their dues. Suspicions raised were also that groceries were being taken from a prominent person’s shop inorder to maximize profits and fatten pockets of those in power.
Manamike however justified Cottco’s move saying government’s move to reduce price ceilings for mobile transfers was a major blow to their payment system. He also further said they tried to have famers open accounts but the subsequent lockdown also jeopardised the process.
“Challenges arose as we failed to continue paying famers using mobile networks following government move to curb money laundering that had become rife through the use of these platforms. We then alternatively asked famers to open bank accounts but the process was jeopadised by the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown,” Manamike added.
Meanwhile, cotton remains a major source of income for rural communities in Zimbabwe.
This year, cotton production is estimated at 101 000 tonnes, an increase of 32 percent from the 77 000 tonnes produced last year, according to the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report.