Maize issue, cause for concern

HARARE - We are so intent on following the political dramas in our unity government.

News that the GMB had stopped selling maize to millers in January went almost unnoticed at a time the Grain Millers Association were reported saying the GMB had told them they were “working on some logistics.”

Before the issue of these unknown ‘‘logistics’’, the GMB had increased their maize selling price from $4,78 to $5,40 per 10 kgs so it was pretty obvious that trouble was looming.

The nature of that trouble is now evident in our supermarkets and the effect is already drilling holes in our ever shrinking pockets.

When the GMB couldn’t supply the grain that was required, the Grain Millers Association had to source the product from private suppliers at a much higher price in order to meet the needs of consumers.

The Grain Millers Association said they had been getting maize from the GMB for $295 a tonne but were now paying private suppliers $420 a tonne.

The Grain Millers Association said the retail price of 10kgs of mealie meal would be approximately $7,20.

Supermarkets massaged the figure and the very day after the announcement, mealie meal stocks on shelves had been marked up, now selling at $7,51 (per 10kgs).

The absurdity of adding one cent to the price is not lost on a country which hasn’t had coinage in use for four years.

How many more suckers and bubble gums will we have to buy to round up the one cent on our mealie meal purchases?

The shock increase of over two dollars for a 10kg bag of maize meal couldn’t have come at a worse time.

By all appearances there is already an ominous view in the countryside of a looming maize disaster this year.

The season seemed to start six weeks late, rainfall in November and December was negligible and most people were still planting their maize after Christmas until the first week of January.

This was followed by over three weeks of pounding rain which caused widespread erosion — fertiliser was washed away and crops left starved of nutrients.

The small maize crops that we see along out-of-town highways are in a very sorry state. It is mostly not even knee high yet, plants are weak and thin,with yellowish leaves and for many there is little chance any cobs will make it to the table.

How sad it is to see people planting up and down hillsides without bothering to build contours, leaving the fruits of their labour completely unprotected from heavy rainfall and runoff.

It hardly bears thinking that we are facing the likelihood of another failed cropping season. Why can’t we get serious about agriculture thirteen years after land invasions?

Speaking at a CZI conference last week, the Minister of Finance gave some shocking statistics that demonstrate just how little attention we are paying to our own food security. Tendai Biti said in 1999 74 percent of bank lending was for agricultural purposes, but now it is just eight percent.

Biti uttered sentiments that most of us agree with thirteen years down the land reform road.

“We just have to bring an end to new invasions,” the minister said, adding that we must have security of tenure, establish a land market and address the issue of compensation.

He said the government had agreed on compensation and all that was needed was consensus on the “framework of calculating the real value.” But his most important words: “No revolution lasts forever, it has to end.” - Cathy Buckle

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