Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter—
THE Grain Marketing Board has only three functional silo depots out of its 12 storage facilities countrywide, posing headaches for authorities as the country expects a bumper harvest this season under Government’s Command Agriculture Programme that has been complemented by an above-average rainy season.
GMB has over 80 depots, 12 of which are equipped with silos designed to hold up to 500 000 tonnes of grain, but they are crumbling due to years of neglect and require over $50 million for repairs. The Lions Den silo near Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, is the world’s third largest with a holding capacity of 104 000 tonnes.
- 19 600 farmers receive Command Agric inputs
- Editorial Comment: Food security; everyone’s responsibility
- Allocations along Zim-Asset lines hailed
- Govt to sign $25m agric pact
GMB is responsible for the strategic grain reserve (SGR) and the quality of the grain depends on the state of the storage facilities. GMB should have proper storage bags, a perfect grading process and appropriate fumigation chemicals.
What this also means is that more holding space needs to be created for maize, since the GMB is expected to collect more than 500 000 tonnes of maize due to the success of Command Agriculture.
Command Agriculture is the special maize import substitution programme instituted by Government, which saw farmers getting assistance with inputs in return for delivering five tonnes per hectare to GMB.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Mechanisation yesterday, Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mr Ringson Chitsiko said GMB should urgently ensure the silos are functional.
This will help avoid an embarrassing situation where grain will be readily available, but the GMB cannot take it in becauseof lack of storage facilities. Legislators raised concern that GMB silos were not in good condition when the country expected high yields this year.
They also said renovations should be done before harvesting.
“We have 12 silos, but only three are intact,” Mr Chitsiko said. “One of the large silos is in Bulawayo, but has had problems because of the current rains. GMB has already gone to tender to find companies that can refurbish the silos before farmers start harvesting.”
Mr Chitsiko said farmers had planted 240 000 hectares of maize under Command Agriculture and were expected to deliver five tonnes each per hectare to the GMB. At least 36 000 farmers were contracted under the programme.
“We expect farmers to deliver five tonnes of maize per hectare,” said Mr Chitsiko. “GMB has not changed the maize producer price, but will continue paying $390 per tonne.”
Some legislators questioned the producer price, as they said prices of maize were set to decline in countries such as Zambia to as low as $140 per tonne. Others said the price disparity would force many processors and millers to import cheap grain, instead of buying locally where it is expensive.
Mr Chitsiko said Government would not allow importation of grain when there are sufficient stocks in Zimbabwe. Government, he said, was responsible for issuing permits and would only issue import permits when there is a deficit.
In 2014, poor storage facilities at the GMB led to the deterioration of 61 000 tonnes of maize. The SGR is run 100 percent by Government, and GMB relies on Treasury for resources.