Millers sue Made over maize producer price

HARARE - Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has sued Agriculture minister Joseph Made over the maize producer price back-dated to April this year, as the association’s members fear prosecution for failure to comply with the directive.

The association together with Grain and Oil Seed Traders Association filed a Constitutional application on Friday, seeking to nullify Made’s decision.

In the application, Agricultural Marketing Authority, Made and the Attorney General have been cited as respondents.

The association, which is represented by Tonderai Bhatasara told the court that Made’s decision was unconstitutional.

According to court papers, government announced in April this year through the media that Cabinet had approved a maize producer price of $390 per tonne for the 2014-15 marketing season.

GMAZ claim in court papers that the price approved by Cabinet only applied to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

The association argues it was not affected by the directive and proceeded to purchase maize and other grains from various producers at negotiated prices.

According to state papers, members belonging to GMAZ bought maize from producers and farmers at prices ranging between $280 and $300 per tonne.

The court heard that on the 8th of August Made made a decree through the Agricultural Marketing Authority (Minimum Grain Producer Prices) Regulations 2014, also known as SI 122 of 2014.

The said promulgation was retrospectively validated to April, the court heard.

According to Made’s promulgation, the $390 per tonne floor price applied not only to grain purchases made by the GMB but to all grain purchases made by any buyer including all the GMAZ’s members.

“Anyone who purchased grain at a price lower than that stipulated in the 2nd Respondent (Agriculture minister)’s April 2014 notice would be prosecuted in terms of section 4 of SI 122 of 2014, which was promulgated in August 2014,” the association told the court.

GMAZ said the minister’s action was “constitutionally unpalatable and irregular”.

The association said it had a right to enjoy the protection and benefit of the law. It further said that according to the Constitution, the organisation and its members had freedom of association.

It added that the agriculture minister cannot retrospectively criminalise contracts legally concluded by its members.

GMAZ said its members also get into contract farming with farmers, where agreements are made pertaining to the determination and the delimitation of the unit price of the produce.

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