Let’s hope GMB is truly ready

Obert Chifamba Agri-Insight
LAST Friday’s Maize Value Chain conference held in Harare provided answers to some pertinent questions that had been troubling most stakeholders in the agriculture sector in terms of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB’s) preparedness to handle the anticipated colossal 2016 /17 season grain deliveries coming courtesy of the successful implementation of the Command Agriculture programme.

After revelations at the beginning of February this year that GMB only had three functional silos out of its 12 storage facilities countrywide and desperately needed $50 million to rehabilitate the structures, a lot of uncertainty rocked the agriculture industry amid concerns that a lot of grain might be put to waste after being stored under poor conditions.

Acting GMB general manager, Lawrence Jasi, despite being allocated an afternoon presentation slot when most people’s attention could have easily been divided between having lunch and continuing with the business of the day, managed to put some smiles on the faces of the people attending the conference.

Mr Jasi revealed that GMB had the capacity to handle in excess of 1, 2 million tonnes of grain expected to be delivered at the conclusion of the current farming season.

GMB has silos, storage sheds and hard stands for the effective storage of all grain that will be harvested and placed in its custody this season, he said.

The parastatal is targeting to have completed water proofing all its silos by August 31 this year, a process that is already underway with some silos having already been declared fit to handle grain.

Mr Jasi added that a contractor to do the waterproofing had already been engaged and the process had taken off expeditiously.

Silos will have a capacity to store 749 000 tonnes while the sheds will account for another 175 000 tonnes.

All in all the sheds, silos and hard stands will have a capacity to store between 3,9 million tonnes and 4 million tonnes of grain.

In 2014, poor storage facilities led to the deterioration of 61 000 tonnes of maize and nobody would want to see a repetition of that blooper once again.

Besides the 10 concrete silos that GMB has that are scattered around the country’s 10 provinces, it also has two steel silos situated in Chiweshe for the storage of grain.

It is also refreshing to note that GMB will be opening collection points to complement the existing ones depending on the expected tonnage coming in different areas of the country.

“Some of the collection points will be permanent while others will be mobile. There will be a total of 1 682 of such points throughout the country while 720 000 tonnes of grain are expected to come via these collection points.

“We have also registered transporters for the purpose while the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) will also come in handy to make sure no grain is lost or deteriorates on the farms after farmers fail to secure transport.

The transport sector is set to benefit enormously this season,” Mr Jasi further commented.

He said there would also be grain movement from surplus to deficit areas, which will present business opportunities to many people from other sectors of the economy including the millers who are expected to get most of their grain requirements from GMB.

Among the exciting pieces of news that Mr Jasi dished out was that $85m had been mobilised through the issuance of Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) bills to kick-start the marketing season.

This should be sweet music to farmers’ ears. They do not want to send their maize to GMB and wait for an eternity before the payment comes through.

Farmers attending the conference also had the privilege of interfacing with some of the basic service providers that make their trade easy while the final guarantee from GMB that there would be enough space for storage and that resources for the payment of grain were also being mobilised was enough to cap a good meeting for them.

There were also agronomists advising farmers on important matters of agronomy such as choosing the right maize varieties for different agro-ecological regions, which on its own is responsible for 50 percent of the entire season’s crop success.

Choosing the right variety should also be complemented by good agronomic practices that make up for the other 50 percent for a cropping season to be successful.

The standard farmer needs something between $1 000 and $1 300 to fund the production of one hectare of maize and all conditions being equal that farmer may reap in excess of 10 tonnes, which makes it very profitable and viable to produce maize.

This means that those farmers registered for Command Agriculture who manage to score more than 10 tonnes have every reason to smile all the way to the GMB and later to the bank this year.

The price of a tonne of maize is $390, which means that having produced a crop under contract with everything provided, all the excess tonnes outside the five that Government will take from every hectare will be for the farmers’ profits.

Maize contributes between 14 and 20 percent to the agriculture Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while agriculture contributes between 20 and 30 percent to the national GDP.

That simply means that maize is a very important crop in the matrix of economic empowerment for the generality of Zimbabweans though crops like tobacco, cotton and sugar beans have in recent years stolen all the limelight from the cereal.

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