Food scandal

HARARE - Millions of Zimbabweans face starvation after the ministry of Agriculture restored the monopoly of struggling parastatal, Grain Marketing Board, amid revelations that government, through the same ministry recently secretly signed a dodgy maize supply deal with a South African company.

Indications are also that some top politicians are reportedly being allowed to import huge quantities of grain for resale.

The government’s effective prohibition of private imports of maize risks heightening food shortages by limiting the amount of food available on the market.

The Agriculture ministry, without prior warning and consultation, stopped the issuance of maize permits to grain millers and traders last month.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe has warned that the move will lead to hunger and starvation in the country.

“The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe is deeply saddened to note the ministry of Agriculture has banned imports of grain but continues to issue massive import permits of maize meal to companies owned by senior politicians,” reads part of the millers’ position paper addressed to government and obtained by the Daily News.

In the secretive operating contract signed between the government and ASP, a South African company, last month, the cash-strapped Harare administration will have to fork out $63 million for 150 000 metric tonnes of maize, insurance and transport.

In the secret agreement, government requires supplies of 150 000 metric tonnes of non-GMOs white maize meal from ASP to be supplied through GMB starting on January 24, but of that, only 950 metric tonnes been received amid claims by scorned millers that South African grain suppliers do not have the amount of grain that Zimbabwe presently requires.

It is the secretive nature of the bilateral agreement that has left many questioning the opaque dealings that the Agriculture ministry is now enmeshed in.

“Each party undertakes to the other; to keep confidential all information, whether oral or written concerning the business and affairs of the other,” reads part of the agreement between government and the South African company.

“And neither party shall issue any press statement or commission and publish or cause to be published any advertisements or other publicity material of any kind whatsoever relating to the terms of agreement.”
But with close to two million in urgent need of food aid, there is a danger that the maize could take long to reach the country.

In the recent past, the GMB and government have not been successful in importing sufficient quantities of grain to meet the deficits. There are fears supplies will be intermittent and a parallel market for maize will emerge.

“The milling industry is shocked and astounded by the decision to have only one trader to be privileged to be the sole supplier of grain to Zimbabwe via GMB, supplying from one country, for onward distribution to more than 14 million people and millions of different livestock,” read the millers’ position paper.

Millers and traders say the government’s move to stop granting permits has left them in a precarious position as they had pre-paid for maize imports from the region.

The situation has been worsened by the poor and sorry state of GMB’s silos which over the years has lost 100 000 metric tonnes due to poor storage. With government struggling to bankroll GMB, little has changed and the maize imports that will come from South Africa are likely to be stored in the same silos.

According to the disgruntled millers, the milling industry requires at least 3 500 metric tonnes of white maize every 24 hours to meet national grain requirements and so far GMB, since surreptitiously entering into agreement with the South Africa company two weeks ago, has received maize enough to feed the country for only 6  hours 50 minutes.

Apart from possible delays, the imported maize is also likely to push prices of mealie-meal up since the millers will have to go through GMB rather than going directly to foreign suppliers.

“The new GMB maize prices to millers will move the retail price of 10 kg roller meal by 12 percent from the current price of $6,41 to $7,13.

The decision to restore monopoly is inflationary and will be financed by the innocent and ordinary low income consumers,” said the millers.

Experts say the GMB has continued to be underfunded and inappropriately constituted for it to play a more  meaningful role in household food security.

At the national level, it has failed to ensure innovative procurement methods and management of a strategic grain reserve, and failed to pay small-scale farmers for grain deliveries.

Comments (7)

This country is going to waste. Hey don't gather riches on earth where it can be destroyed by moth, look for heavenly riches which will live forever. Mbavha idzi dzinoziva kuti dzichafa here? Munoziva ma business embavha kana vafa anosara achibhuroka because they are not built on proper stronger innocent foundation and vana havazogone kuba sababa na mai.

Maita Manyuka - 3 February 2014

They are on the gravy train again....just like they did with import licenses during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A few highly placed individuals in government holding the entire nation at ransom. So much for zero tolerance for corruption. Cashbert's escapades pale into insignificance by comparison.

Strategist - 3 February 2014

Does this really surprise you? The zpf government derives pleasure in inflicting suffrage onto the people. In case you are not aware they believe that the poorer the people are, the easily governed they become. Instead of pressing the authorities about formulating and implementing proper legislation, we are going to be seized with trying to find funds for school fees, rent and food, devoting very little or no time to how we are being governed. The US president is regarded as the most powerful man on earth because he is the president of the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump ( some of the richest men on the face of the earth) and ex US presidents while Mugabe prides himself for being a president of beggars

Topheavy - 3 February 2014

ONLY the depature of MUGABE will see sanity prevail in Zimbabwe. He is now the country's biggest liability.

Mbongeni Sakhe - 3 February 2014

My question to the government is this what we VOTED for

msongelwa - 4 February 2014

Ivhu tinaro Minda takapiwa, Mvura iri kunaya, Mainputs tirikumwairwa Saka tirikurasika papi nekushaya chokudya? We used to have farmers who would fill one GMB depot on their own. Why are we having such shortages to the extent of importing grain from our neighbors, yet Zimbabwe was the biggest exporter of grain in the region???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Chaporonga - 4 February 2014

I recommend reading the book by MIT economists Acemoglu and Robinson titled "Why Nations Fail" to best understand the rent seeking behaviour in this recent reversal of policy allowing millers too import grain. The consequences on the supply and price on this basic commodity of this policy reversal would have been obvious to government, but an opportunity to extort from and control the masses is too tempting for these guys to let pass

wadyenhiri - 4 February 2014

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