VICTORIA FALLS - Government must privatise the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to ensure transparency and benefit farmers, Zambia’s former Agriculture minister said.
Chance Kabaghe, the former Zambian minister, told delegates at the Buy Zimbabwe: 5th Buy Local conference that as long as government controlled the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), farmers were always going to be short changed.
“In all countries where cultural revolutions have taken place, the private sector was at the helm. It is impossible for government to objectively and transparently run the GMB, simply because they are incompetent.
“What they should do however, is to get a private investor for the parastatal and make sure transparency and efficiency prevails after this they play a regulatory role,” he said, adding government could keep the new investor in check on a regulatory position.
The loss making parastatal recently announced it was going to lease out its condemned grain silos across the country in an effort to raise funds to pay farmers and thousands of workers.
“Early in my career, I used to come to Zimbabwe to beg the GMB to give Zambia maize, but now tables have turned, it is now Zimbabwe begging Zambia for maize.
“It gives me great sadness to say this but food and hunger knows no law. As a former agricultural minister in my country, I throw this ball in your government’s court. They simply need to privatise the whole agricultural sector,” Kabaghe, who is also the executive director of indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) said.
According to Joseph Made, the minister of Agriculture, government owes farmers over $28 million, for 146 000 metric tonnes of grain delivered to the parastatal last year.
Farmers have for the past two years been calling for the privatisation of the GMB, due to perennial non-payment of their proceeds by the grain reserve.
Since 2008, GMB has continuously failed to timeously pay farmers for their produce, leading to disruptions in the planting seasons.
According to Mildred Chari, Comptroller and Auditor-General, GMB needs about $50 million for silo repairs alone, while the exact amount of investment needed for the revival of the parastatal is not in the public domain, sources at the ministry of Agriculture say the defunct parastatal needs over $500 000 to recapitalise.
Kabaghe, also said some of Zimbabwe’s problems were caused by government’s “reluctance to implement policies it formulates.”