THE country’s prevailing cash crisis has hit farmers hard in many ways. Farmers are now unable to regularly pay their workers as they fail to access cash at banks, while the prices of inputs, spare parts and new equipment have astronomically gone up.
Most farmers pay their farm workers using cash because these workers have no bank accounts. For most of the farm workers opening the bank accounts is virtually impossible because they have no identity cards. Even if they were to open the bank accounts and get bank cards, they would still find it difficult to use these cards to make purchases because most shops in the farming areas do not have point of sale machines. Many of these shops are demanding cash or Ecocash payments only.
Farm workers would have to travel to the major towns to make purchases at major supermarkets that provide swipe services. However, this presents problems because this means stopping work for long periods to enable the workers to travel to the towns. Besides, the farm workers are being paid such measly wages that it would not even be worth it to travel long distances to access the cash.
Some farmers have resorted to buying basic food stuffs that include cooking oil, salt, sugar, soap etc, for their workers every month as the cash crisis refuses to abate. However, some farm workers have complained that the farm owners end up buying them items they do not really need and that sometimes the prices quoted are highly inflated.
Many farmers have since decided to force their workers to open bank accounts and simply deposit the wages into those accounts. Some innovative workers are visiting nearby service stations and shops to negotiate with petrol attendants or shop tellers to get cash. Some simply offer to use their cash to make payments for customers who would be paying with cash.
Whilst the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is advocating for cashless transactions, not enough measures have been put in place to monitor the prevailing situation on the ground with a view to making life bearable for everyone especially the poor such as the farm workers.
Because of this, it is not surprising that, in this day and age, there are shops in Harare that claim not to have any bank accounts. The RBZ should publicise their hotline numbers so that people alert them of any malpractices. A solution to the cash crisis is long overdue and everybody has been looking up to the RBZ, to come up with a long-term solution, it is long overdue.
Peter Gambara is an agricultural economist/consultant based in Harare.