Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
The private sector has imported 101 716 tonnes of maize to cover the grain deficit as local farmers shun delivering their maize to the Grain Marketing Board. This has compromised the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). Government issued permits for the importation of 819 704 tonnes of maize recently.Agricultural experts say some farmers have surplus maize, but are reluctant to sell it to the GMB which does not pay upon delivery.
Most farmers are selling their grain to middlemen offering cash on the spot.
In an interview recently, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said farmers in Mashonaland Central had surplus maize and the same applied to those in Mashonaland West.
“According to the national crop assessment, we have nearly 500 000 tonnes of maize available for sale, but this does not mean it will be delivered for the SGR.
“GMB is paying the best price but because it takes long to pay, farmers are selling to middlemen who then sell to millers. Most buyers are offering between $200 and $220 per tonne,” he said.
GMB buys maize and small grains at $390 per tonne.
Mr Chabikwa said the situation could have been different had the GMB been paying instantly.
“Most farmers would like to sell their grain to GMB but the issue of late payments has discouraged them. Farmers are wounded,” he said.
Agricultural economist Mr Peter Gambara confirmed the development.
“Farmers would want to use their money to pay fees and buy inputs and this is not possible when payments take long.
“Most farmers are selling to other cash buyers offering around $220 per tonne. Farmers have current obligations to fulfil and selling to cash buyers will be a better option than wait (indefinitely),” he said.
“If Treasury releases funds for grain payments early, farmers will deliver their grain to the GMB.”
Drought and floods affected maize production in the 2014-15 season.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record as saying the country needs to import 700 000 tonnes of grain to ensure food security.
Presenting his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement, Minister Chinamasa said $1,7 billion was needed to finance the 2015-16 farming season.