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Agric joint ventures should be Govt approved

All joint ventures in agriculture, while desirable as a way of boosting investment and production, must be approved by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development for them to be legally binding after being found to be above board, Minister Anxious Masuka has said.

Where conversion of agricultural land used for cropping and or livestock to forestry is planned, special approval from the ministry must also be sought first, before parties can sign the special forestry joint venture agreement.

All forestry joint ventures, registered and unregistered, should be submitted to the ministry by February 15.

A joint venture agreement framework has been approved to allow investors to undertake farming operations, with the consent of Government, to increase production and productivity on farms, but the Government wants to ensure that the joint venture is using the right land, preferably underused or unproductive land, and is fair to all concerned.

“A joint venture database, for the purpose of match-making available underutilised and unproductive land units with potential joint venture partners is being developed.

“Farmers are encouraged to register with their nearest Agritex office. Potential joint venture partners are encouraged to register with the monitoring and evaluation unit of the ministry,” he said.

Minister Masuka said in line with Government thrust to increase agricultural production and productivity, abandoned farms, derelict farms and underused farms were liable for repossession and redistribution to deserving beneficiaries on the waiting list for land allocation.

“Holders of such land must consider joint ventures to quickly bring such land under production.

“Section 18 of the Land Commission Act buttressed the position by asserting that no occupier of State land shall permit occupation, on a share-cropping basis, by another person unless a formal agreement has been entered into between the owner and the occupier with that agreement having been approved by the minister,” he said.

A special approval form from the ministry is required when converting agricultural land to forestry.

A different agreement is also required to cater for the long-term nature of forestry, and the delayed returns on investment to consider and preserve agricultural land for national food security.

Forestry normally sees cropping cycles of a minimum of 15 years for fast growing softwoods and the time between harvests can be far longer.

“All forestry joint ventures, whether registered and unregistered with the ministry, must be submitted to the ministry by February 15, 2022. Farmers undertaking forestry joint ventures must clearly indicate this on their annual production and productivity returns,” he said.

Minister Masuka also called on A1 and A2 farmers to submit annual “production and productivity forms” by February 15 each year. The new A2 permit conditions now compel all A2 farmers to provide such returns.

“Farmers, rather businessmen and businesswomen, are reminded to submit their returns not later than February 15. The form is obtainable from the ministry’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, email address and downloadable from the ministry website, Agricultural Marketing Authority website www.ama.cozw or Agricultural Marketing Authority and Agritex offices countrywide,” he said.

Government is working on transforming farmers into business people. A2 farmers will be transformed into agricultural entrepreneurs and their farms to become viable businesses while A1 farmers will be transformed through Government production schemes to become viable and formal small to medium enterprises by 2025.

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