Cotton farmers cry over withholding tax

Zimbabwe

… suggest introduction of GMOs to boost production

Takudzwa Chihambakwe

COTTON farmers in Zimbabwe fear that they may soon fail to grow the crop, amid low prices and a 10 percent withholding tax deduction from their earnings by the tax collector, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Zimra.

Appearing before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Agriculture, Chairperson for Cotton Farmers under the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Stewart Mubonderi, said growers are not happy with the 10% withholding tax they are being charged by Zimra.

Mubonderi said the tax is unfair as it applies only to cotton farmers while tobacco and maize farmers are exempt.

 “Tobacco farmers have been exempted. They are talking nothing of the sort regarding the maize farmer. We are appealing to Parliament to intervene on this matter so that this situation can be redressed or reversed.

“This is shocking to us as growers. Most farmers get an average of RTGS$600-700 per hectare and on top of this ZIMRA is coming to demand such a fee.”

Mubonderi said that another area that needs attention is that of research and production.

“New seed varieties were last introduced in 2009. We need better hybrids to boost our yields from the current 400 to 600 kilograms per hectare.

“We need to do what is being done in the maize sector were new seed varieties are being released year in and year out.

“However, we are happy that there is a new variety from India which Cottco is introducing. This new variety will produce 180 balls per plant form the current 30. We need more varieties to be developed – varieties that suit the various regions in the country,” explained Mubonderi.

Mubonderi suggested that it could be time Zimbabwe embraces genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture.

“We are already importing various GMO products and consuming them in this country. So why not start producing products with GMO components? I believe that we should introduce GMOs to enable the farmer to be productive.

“Once a farmer is productive, we will get more lint and more foreign currency.”

The government of Zimbabwe continues to ban the importation of genetically modified products to protect the country’s environment.