SOME cotton farmers in Gokwe allegedly lost their farming equipment and household utensils to a leading cotton company following their failure to pay for farming inputs advanced to them at the beginning of this year’s farming season.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) national chairman of the Cotton Producers Association, Rodgers Nyoni last week said Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Limited (Cottco)’s recovery team invaded farmers’ homesteads in the past two weeks and grabbed anything of value as payment for debts accrued under the company’s input credit scheme.
Allegations are that a group of Cottco workers, accompanied by armed guards and a senior official for Cottco’s western region, raided farmers and made away with maize meal, chickens, hoes, scotch-carts and some beasts.
“This happened in Nyarupakwe in Gokwe South Ward 23 under headman Chisina,” Nyoni said. “Most affected are farmers in villages such as Marumbe, Mahiya, Murandu and Magonyo where the raids took place from last Thursday to Sunday.”
Nyoni said one Peter Mpiyabo lost a scotch-cart, eight chickens, three guinea fowls, three buckets of sorghum, a hoe and 14 cups.
Another farmer in Murandu lost three buckets of soya beans and one sack of maize.
Farmers in Marumbe village allegedly sought refugee in the mountains where they hid most of their equipment and utensils during the raid.
“Members of the police Support Unit were called in to quell the situation,” said Nyoni.
He said the fallout was caused by the cotton price stalemate which the government recently tried to address by announcing new prices.
Cotton farmers recently approached government in protest over cotton prices which were pegged between 30 cents and 37 cents per kilogramme following their failure to convince ginners to increase the price.
It is alleged that some ginners started buying cotton despite the negotiations, forcing some farmers to use third parties in order to avoid paying for inputs.
The ginners said that no one was paying for inputs despite the sales and launched the blitz.
Nyoni said despite government pegging prices between 77c and 84c per kg, some ginners continued buying at the previous price, forcing farmers to further seek ways of avoiding paying for the inputs.
Cottco spokesperson Veronica Kadandara who requested that questions be emailed to her said she could not comment after initially indicating she would respond.
“I have seen your questions but I am sorry we have no comment,” she said. “We have no comment.”