Government is aware that tractor owners are not happy with the money they get paid under the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD).

This was revealed by the Ministry of Agriculture official Gloria Nnanaki Mashungwa when answering a questionnaire from AgriVoice on behalf of ISPAAD Director Dr. Pharoah Mosupi on Tuesday.

“The issue of raising payments has been raised by several disgruntled tractor owners,” she revealed Responding to the question on whether or not government had any plans to allow tractor owners to increase the price where they think it necessary and have the owners pay the balance Mashungwa said: “The government is in the process of reviewing the ISPAAD program. The payment guidelines are among some of the terms which are within the scope of review.

“Tractor owners are not allowed under the ISPAAD program to charge farmers any money beyond what has been stipulated in the guidelines”.

Commenting on the state of harvest this ploughing season the Ministry of Agriculture’s mouthpiece told Voice Agric: “A full record of total national harvest will be available in November 2012. However, the total cereal harvested during 2010/11 planting season was 67,000metric tonnes, 56% of which was maize, 38% sorghum and only 6% was millet”.

Asked for enlightenment on ISPAAD’s achievements and short comings since establishment Mashungwa intimated that there has been an increase in areas planted and total production since the inception of the programme and the number of participating farmers has increased by 74% from a year before the programme to the 2010/11 ploughing season.

She elaborated that low crop production was due to some farmers abandoning their fields after ISPAAD assistance exposing them to weed infection and damage by live stock. She also cited lack of skilled manpower, shortage of farming implements and the reluctance by farmers to adopt new technology as challenges.

“The majority of farmers practice broadcasting and mixed cropping instead of row planting and mono cropping” Mashungwa said.

Patrick Kabango, who ploughed for ISPAAD farmers said row planting was better but the money offered by ISPAAD was too little so most tractor owners opted to plough for those who broadcasted.

“It is cost effective to plough and not plant. The return is too low and it is not worth all the effort required and the cost of fuel used is too high,” he lamented.