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ZW$2.5 billion scandal: Cottco launches probe

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THE Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) says it has instituted investigations into how farmers in Gokwe South were paid with groceries for their produce delivered at the company’s depots instead of getting cash payments from a ZW$2.5 billion fund availed for that purpose by the government.

BRENNA MATENDERE

The development follows a report carried by The NewsHawks last week which revealed that some farmers received grocery payments for their cotton. The farmers said the practice was unfair as they needed cash to pay for their living expenses such as medical care, school fees and other critical needs.

The farmers said the practice was mostly rampant in Makuchira village in Gokwe South as well as other remote areas that border the district with roads that lead to Nkayi as well as in Manoti and Sengwa.

In written responses, Cottco acting accounting officer Munyaradzi Chikasha said all payments were supposed to be made in cash.

“Cottco contracted over 230 000 growers for the 2021/2022 agricultural season under the Presidential Inputs Scheme where farmers get tillage services, seed, fertilisers, chemicals and agronomic support for free,” he said.

“The farmers sell the cotton to Cottco. For this season the farmers were getting US$60 and ZW$32 500 for every 200kg bale of cotton. Over US$11 million has been paid to cotton farmers country wide and over ZW$1.1 billion. In total we have paid 79% of the crop delivered including Gokwe payments. We are still working towards completing all our payments.”

On the issue of groceries, Chikasha said: “This year cotton farmers were getting 75% US dollar component on the crop delivered and the rest in local currency. The company did not use groceries as payments this season. The payment in groceries was done in 2020 at the request of some farmers. We have instituted internal investigation to find out if any farmers were given groceries instead of cash.”

The Cottco boss also insisted that Cottco’s services for farmers are competitive and designed to make farming easy. He added that the company pays prices that are above prevailing regional scales.

“For the record, Cottco is administering the Presidential Inputs Scheme and farmers are provided inputs for free. The inputs include tillage services, seed, fertilisers, chemicals, a knapsack and agronomic advise from our extension officers.”

 “Regionally cotton prices range between US30-35cents.Cottco is paying more, given that the cost of inputs is not recovered. At US0.30cents per kg plus ZW$32.50, the price is competitive. Cotton prices are determined on the international market and fluctuate due to the market forces of supply and demand,” said Chikasha.

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