Tawanda Mangoma in Chikombedzi
Farmers in Chikombedzi have castigated the Grain Marketing Board for deliberately causing delays that have seen them waiting for several weeks to sell their grain at its various depots and sub-depots in the area.
The affected farmers accused GMB officials in the area of working in cahoots with private grain buyers.
Chibwedziva farmer Mr Dhlayani Chandhala on Tuesday said the delays were being created to force them to sell their grain to private buyers for a song.
“The problem here is that we feel there is a collusion between some GMB officials and private grain buyers to frustrate us so that we sell our grain to the latter for as little as $150 per tonne,” he said.
“Some farmers wait here (at the mini-depot) for up to a month and they end up selling their grain to dealers who pay less than 50 percent of what is paid by GMB.”
Mr Chandhala said most of the affected farmers were seriously considering not to sell their crop to the GMB in future.
Mr Sanyani Chigombe, a farmer from Makombe, said GMB in some cases used flimsy excuses such as shortage of grain holding space for not buying their grain.
In other cases, he said, they were also told that there was no transport to ferry the grain to the main district depot in Chiredzi.
“We started noticing that something was amiss when farmers failed to access enough bags, yet grain dealers had a lot of them and out of desperation we are forced to buy the bags from the dealers and also sell our produce to them for a pittance,” he said.
Mr Chigombe challenged GMB to up its game and avoid disadvantaging farmers in southern Chiredzi who were now at the mercy of private grain buyers.
A farmer, Mrs Mildred Muhlava of Chikombedzi, said many women were now resorting to selling their grain to private buyers for them to rush back home to their families.
Some farmers said the delays were now compromising the quality of their grain particularly maize and small grains.
Some said the delays were costly due to incremental costs of stacking and packaging their grain to prepare for delivery. They are charged 20 cents for stacking per bag and 10 cents for loading.
GMB officials at Chibwedziva refused to comment, saying it was against protocol.
Chiredzi South Member of Parliament Cde Kallisto Gwanetsa confirmed that farmers were struggling to deliver their grain at GMB depots forcing them to be short-changed by private buyers.
“Problems are there, farmers are staying for even a month at some of the sub-depots her in Chikombedzi and this has derailed the momentum of the grain delivery process,” he said.
“Farmers must not be punished for delivering their produce. This must be the smoothest of all processes.”