Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday defended an arrangement by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in which it buys grain from farmers at $390 per tonne and sells it to millers at $250 saying the decision was meant to ensure that millers saved foreign currency from grain imports.
Acting President Mnangagwa was addressing a Zanu-PF national fundraising business breakfast meeting in Harare held under the theme; “Command Agriculture and its Impact on the industry and the economy at large” He said the media was criticising GMB arguing that the arrangement was not economically viable.
“The media thinks it is uneconomic. It is very economic,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
He said the $390 per tonne was meant to enable farmers to remain on the land by paying viable producer price while millers bought grain at $250 to ensure that they did not import grain thereby saving foreign currency.
“If we do not produce enough maize in this country, the millers will have to import maize from outside Zimbabwe. They will spend between $800 million and $1 billion (a year) in importing grain into Zimbabwe and that is strengthening or paying farmers in other countries,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
“They bring in that grain at an average of the import parity price of $250 per tonne. So we got together as stakeholders, which include financial service sector, millers, seed companies, chemical companies and farming organisations and agreed with millers that they stop importing maize from other countries.”
Acting President Mnangagwa said it was agreed that the millers would pay in advance their purchase of grain from GMB and would draw down their maize while the grain utility used the money to pay farmers.
“If it is $800 million, they give us the $800 million which they have been using to import grain at $250 per tonne. Chinamasa has to pay $390 to the farmers. If we get the $250 from millers, Chinamasa will pay the difference of $140, so the fiscus has been assisted and the millers just have to draw grain from GMB,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
He said the millers would have to make regular payments of his or her grain requirement per year to the GMB as an advance payment. “The farmer is happy, the miller is happy and we are happy. So the media, that is the trick,” said Acting President drawing laughter from the floor.