Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) will soon have two separate entities, with one dealing with the maintenance of the Strategic Grain Reserve, while the other will become a fully-fledged commercial entity.
The move, expected to start by April 1, is meant to boost productivity and reduce losses.
Briefing Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri during a tour of the Aspindale depot, GMB general manager Mr Rockie Mutenha said commercialisation was part of the parastatal’s 100-day plan.
He said if approved, the move would result in the parastatal being able to manage its funds, pay debts and also compete with other millers, while ensuring that consumers had access to quality and affordable food.
Mr Mutenha said GMB had already submitted its proposal to Cabinet and was awaiting approval.
“With all things being equal, we expect to have separated the two by April 1, 2018,” he said. “We have got a Cabinet committee memorandum, which we submitted through our ministry to authorise the exercise.
“In 1996, Government allowed the GMB to get into some commercial activity to make it viable and we did not want to mix commercial activities and the SGR mandate. We want to separate the two so that we become focused on grain management, while the commercial entity becomes viable.
“We want to compete with other millers and if we continue to mix the two we will not be focused. We want to keep those lines of business clearly separate and well accounted for.”
Mr Mutenha said the SGR was fully funded by Government and GMB was only a caretaker.
“Our commercial entity will be self-financing,” he said. “At the moment, because it is being run as one, we end up clouding issues. Taking funds from the commercial to support the SGR and vice versa.”
Minister Shiri said Government was fully behind the commercialisation of the GMB
“They (GMB) sit on raw materials such as various types of grain and we have all been talking of value addition,” he said. “It makes sense if they engage in value addition because they have the technology required.
“We fully support the initiative of separating the SGR from the commercial entity because once that is done, we should be able to tell the competence of management. I see no reason GMB should not be involved in milling when we had the Cold Storage Company and a number of abattoirs at the same time.
“Government needs that competition. We will be supporting you. I personally support GMB should be involved in milling.”
GMB chairman Mr Charles Chikaura said part of the commercialisation included milling and selling small grains.
He complained of liquidity challenges, which he said could improve if the parastatal was allowed to float bills.
“We will be able to pay debts,” he said. “Sometimes we resort to expensive bank borrowings and this is not sustainable.”
Commenting on the tour, Minister Shiri said he was impressed by the various GMB operations.