Govt okays duty free imports of grain Professor Mthuli Ncube

Precious Manomano

Herald Reporter

Private companies can now import maize without paying duty as part of the extra precautions being taken to ensure that the possible lower rainfall this season as a result of an El Nino will not lead to a point of inadequate grains stocks.

The announcement of the tax concession was made when the Government was announcing the 2023/24 incentive planning production prices of traditional grains, maize, soyabeans and sunflower.

The Meteorological Services Department had predicted possible erratic and low rainfall patterns this year prompted by El Nino conditions which will affect Southern Africa as a result of climate change. The actual assessment will be made very soon before the start of the season after regional meteorologists have made their best predictions for the coming season.

Speaking during the incentive planning prices for the main summer crops for the 2023/24 season in Harare, Finance and Investment Promotion Minister Mthuli Ncube indicated that they want to ensure adequate supply of food in the country, hence attractive prices for farmers, with this backed by allowing private concerns to import maize without duty.

‘’We are opening up borders with immediate effect and allowing the private sector to import maize with no duty as well. The same thing applies to the household imports of maize meal which we opened a few months ago. That continues to ensure supply so private players should engage in importation of grain . We want to support our citizens,’’ he said.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said permitting imports of maize by private firms was with immediate effect and those companies with their own resources could import as much as they wished. .

‘’Mealie meal imports by households will continue and the two ministries of agriculture and of industry and commerce, will be working out the detailed modalities with finance and investment promotion to see what quantities per household does this mean so that commercial consignments are excluded from these arrangements.

‘’Private players must secure 40 percent of their annual raw material requirements from contracting farmers out there and the private sector is coming very strongly to assist the Government and we must thank them for that,’’he said.

Government is moving into a structured liberalisation of the marketing system to ensure that the private sector climbs in to back the farmers.

The 2023/24 incentive prices for maize and traditional grains stands at US$335,03 per tonne while the average import parity price for maize stands at US$331 and the free on board price is US$218 per tonne.“This should be sufficient in motivating to allow us to secure the one million tonnes of maize into the Grain Marketing Board and other users next year.”

Besides ensuring that GMB stocks are adequate the farmers will retain on their farms what they need for their families and other household requirements.

Sunflower incentive planning price is at US$654,37 per tonne and soyabean stands at US$569,02 per tonne.

Besides the sunflower incentive price to encourage farmers to produce this oil seed, the agriculture ministry also  wants to see imports of soyabeans by the private sector to be allowed with immediate effect in view of the predicted El Nino in building national stocks.

Dr Masuka indicated that determination of maize and traditional grains incentive planning prices is based on the Government approved policy of the cost plus approach although the ministry cross checks through the import parity to interrogate the reasonability of that pricing .

“Our planning, planting and marketing price stands to be higher but the Government is determined to assure this nation all perennial food security so we use a cost plus mechanism to pay farmers . We use a 15 percent return and a yield of 5,5 tonnes per hectare for maize. Using this we arrive at $335,03 per tonne for maize and for the determination of sunflower. We want sunflower and cotton to be major oil seed crops alongside soyabean. Soyabean is now regarded as a feed crop not an oil seed crop.

“It is 18 percent oil content. Sunflower has 30 percent plus. It is suited to smallholder sector dry areas, it fits in the rural transformation model that the Government is propagating using this arrangement. The sunflower price is US$654,37,’’ he said.

Dr Masuka urged the smallholder sector to plant traditional grains in view of the predicted lower than normal season.

With this prediction the Government is predicting 17 additional measures to climate-proof agriculture including sustainable intensive conservation agriculture and construction of dams.

What is grown in an agro-ecological zone is determined not by what the farmer wants but by the exigencies of that agro-ecological region. We want that agro-ecological tailoring to be sharpened and the distribution will be heightened.

Dr Masuka said GMB depots in the specific agro-ecological regions will only receive crops that are suitable for the regions adding that they are engaging all the seed houses so that they don’t sell the wrong crops and wrong varieties in the regions.

“The 460 irrigation schemes will be irrigating maize and 90 000ha of potential irrigation for maize was also identified to maximise irrigation so that we produce sufficient for the nation.”

Dr Masuka also said there is no need to subsidise mealie meal.

Currently the country has more than 260 0000 tonnes of maize in stock in the GMB and 140 000 tonnes of wheat .

He also said in terms of support from the private sector the Government has done so much from irrigation development to mechanisation.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) secretary general, Mr Paul Zakariya said the prices set direction and enable farmers to make decisions on what type to grow and what is expected from them.

“This helps to make informed decisions. This will help to determine the profitability of the crop. All inputs should be priced correctly to ensure that farmers get what they deserve. Farmers should be paid on time to avoid fluctuation of prices,’’he said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust Mrs Depinah Nkomo said it is critical to ensure that farmers get money which will allow them to grow in the next season adding that inputs costs are very high.

‘’The costs of inputs should determine what farmers will get to ensure another successful farming season,’’she said.

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