Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Farmers owed money by the Grain Marketing Board want the parastatal to provide fertilisers and chemicals while they wait to be paid. The farmers complained that while the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, had assured them of their payments, he did not give a time frame and the money may be availed late when their crops would have suffered.
A Mvurwi farmer, Mrs Enetty Banda, said she had delivered her crop to the GMB so she could get inputs for the 2014/15 season.
“I have already planted maize but now I do not have the money to buy fertilisers. I need to apply top dressing fertiliser and I am afraid my crop may get wasted before I receive the payment from GMB,” she complained.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said farmers were desperate for fertilisers and would rather have Government guarantee so they can access inputs.
“The season is progressing while we do not have the inputs. Government should negotiate with inputs manufacturers so that farmers can access fuel, fertilisers and chemicals and pay back when they get their money from the GMB.
“The systems can work as a warehouse receipt system. Something should be done soon to save the situation,” he said.
The system revolves around warehouse receipts that are issued as evidence that specified commodities of stated quantity and quality have been deposited at particular locations by named depositors. The receipts can be used as collateral by farmers when borrowing funds from the bank or inputs from suppliers.
Mr Chabikwa said although farmers were in need of their cash, the major purpose of the money was for procuring inputs.
“It is unfortunate that GMB has not paid some farmers. We had advised our members to send their grain to GMB because the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development had assured us that farmers would get their money in 60 days.
“It made sense for farmers to deliver their grain to GMB.
“The company offered the highest price than private buyers who were fleecing farmers. We do not know what to tell farmers next season,” he said.
Zimbabwe Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo said GMB could pay farmers through inputs. “If GMB has the inputs it is better to give us inputs equivalent to our hectarages and pay the balance in cash later. There has been an increase in the amount of grain delivered to GMB depots this season compared to the past season because of the better price and assurance of an early payment.
“This poor payment system will force farmers to sell their grain to private buyers who offer instant cash. Farmers have been ripped off by middlemen who take advantage of GMB’s inability to pay instantly.
“It is bad but sometimes farmers will be in a desperate situation that requires cash,” she said.
Government on Wednesday assured farmers who delivered their crop to the Grain Marketing Board depots that it is working on payment modalities to ensure they get their money soon.
Farmers had delivered 255 519 tonnes of maize to the GMB depots valued at US$101, 8 million by December 19. To date, Government has disbursed US$57,6 million to GMB for payment to farmers for the grain delivered including US$8,2 million for grain delivered during the previous season.
Of the US$57,6 million paid by Government, US$51,5 million was raised through the issuance of Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) bills with the balance being paid from fiscal resources.
Government now still owes $52,4 million to farmers for the grain delivered to its depots.