Tractor owners demand better pay from Govt
Local subsistence farmers may have to pay through their noses this ploughing season if there’s no intervention coming from the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Crop Production.
Under the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), farmers received free seeds for four hectares at government’s cost. As part of the scheme, private tractor owners plough for farmers within a 20km radius at a charge of P1, 160 per hectare.
It is this amount, which has remained the same since 2013, that has set tractor owners against government and threatens to leave thousands of farmers in the lurch.
Botswana Tractor Association (BTA) are demanding an increase to P3, 441 per hectare – a figure they believe will help them break even.
In an interview with The Voice on Wednesday, BTA Secretary General, Goememang Nyatshane revealed the association have long engaged the ministry concerning the stagnant rates with no success.
Nyatshane is insistent the rate must be increased in line with rising inflation and steadily increasing prices of fuel and spare parts that have occurred over the last decade.
“It is against this backdrop that we decided to implement cost recovery measures to cushion tractor owners’ costs and losses,” he explained.
Nyatshane told The Voice that they arrived at the new figure after careful analysis of costs incurred by tractor owners to plough a hectare under ISPAAD arrangement.
“We’re required to till the soil, harrow and plant; a necessary but expensive process,” said Nyatshane.
He stressed they had no other option as numerous engagements with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture bore no tangible progress.
“This is what is going to happen this season: farmers will have to cover the P2, 281 balance, while the P1, 160 will come from government,” he declared, stressing the Ministry left them with little option but to come up with this declaration as numerous engagements had bore no progress.
Nyatshane did, however, state BTA’s willingness to settle for a compromise rate should government come to the negotiating table.
“But we can’t run away from it. Remember that after ploughing we also have to take the Agriculture Field Officer through all the fields we ploughed for inspection, and this also is done at our costs,” he said.
Nyatshane further lamented that government then takes well over six months before processing their payment.
“Some of the tractor owners who ploughed fields last year were paid as recent as August this year. How are we supposed to pay our drivers, and settle our debts,” he demanded rhetorically.
The Voice reached out to the Acting Director of Crop Production, Diirilwe Matoto, who was said to be locked in a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
The ISPAAD programme was initiated by government in 2008. Besides giving free seeds, the programme further supports farmers by enhancing access to other essential inputs like fertilizer, draught power, credit, cluster fencing, potable water and agricultural services.