Govt pays up 2013/2014 maize arrears

HARARE - Government has completely paid up all its arrears to farmers for maize grain deliveries for the 2013/2014 season, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.

Chinamasa told Parliament in his Thursday budget statement that government was committed to capacitating farmers, and had paid out a total of $67,8 million between January and November 12.

He said $11 million was availed to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for handling and storage.

Despite the payment made by government, GMB still owes $15 million for the 2014/2015 season, according to deputy agriculture minister Paddy Zhanda.

“Of the $67,8 million disbursed this year, $44,9 million went towards the 2013/14 arrears while the balance of $22,9 million cleared obligations related to this year’s deliveries,” Chinamasa said.

“Mr Speaker Sir, this effectively means that government has completely cleared all its arrears to farmers for the maize grain deliveries.

“Furthermore, government will strive to ensure that no arrears will be incurred going forward.”

He said as at November 12, government still owed wheat farmers $12,7 million for the produce they delivered to GMB.

Chinamasa added that the stop order system will soon be re-established for all agricultural crops by the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe.

The revitalisation of the stop order system will be done in consultation with relevant stakeholders and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the Agriculture ministry and Treasury.

The facility, Chinamasa said, will also include the provision for loans of crops such as soya beans and cotton, an arrangement similar to that provided for tobacco.

“The framework, if managed well, provides the desired certainty of loan repayments, that way, guaranteeing the sustainability of lending, much required by banks, depositors and borrowers.

“Mr Speaker Sir, amendment of the Farmers Stop Order Act, Chapter 18 Section 11, will be undertaken to protect all lenders by providing for the participation of all financial institutions, as well as curbing side marketing of crops,” the Finance minister said.

An audit conducted by the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee urged government to urgently review the composition and membership of the GMB.

The committee, led by MDC legislator Paurina Mpariwa, said GMB was failing to deliver on its statutory mandate of ensuring food security in the country.

Mpariwa also noted that the board and management at GMB were reluctant to implement recommendations by the auditor- general despite being provided with sound advice.

“The entity (GMB) lacks adequate skills at both the board of directors and management levels to move the organisation forward,” she said.

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