'Farmers to deliver 1m tonnes of maize by Sept'

HARARE - Zimbabwean farmers are expected to deliver 1 million tonnes of maize to the State grain agency by September, Davis Marapira, deputy Agriculture minister responsible for cropping has said.

Marapira said the government-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB), which in the past has struggled to pay for maize, was now paying farmers upon delivery. He said over 160 000 tonnes of grain have already been delivered so far and were expected to shoot up from mid-July till August.

“We expect more maize to dry and deliveries will increase from mid-July to August and we expect more tonnes to be delivered to GMB. We expect over one million tonnes by September,” he said.

The GMB has been rejecting grain from farmers for high moisture content, with the rejected crop being sold on the parallel market.

GMB accepts grain with a moisture content of not more than 12,5 percent.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made told the Senate last week that government will start drying maize grain to prevent spoilage during storage.

“It is an issue that we are attending to and hopeful that in the next season, the dryers will be there to assist in ensuring that the maize that is delivered has the correct moisture content,” Made said in response to a question by MDC proportional representation senator  Keresencia Chabuka that rejected maize was being sold to conmen who in turn resale the same maize to the GMB.

“There may be a few isolated cases now, but it is not all the GMB depots that have issues of corruption.  We are dealing with these problems once they have been reported.”

Marapira said the increasing grain deliveries attested to the success of Command Agriculture. Mugabe’s government announced the scheme last year, which is paying farmers $390 a tonne for maize to woo farmers to plant.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe — a grouping of the 100 biggest private millers — has entered a deal to buy 800 000 tonnes of maize produced under the Command Agriculture scheme for $242 a tonne, with government standing to lose $147 per tonne.

Sakunda is bankrolling Command Agriculture, which the opposition alleges is an illegal parallel programme of the State specifically designed to pursue a narrow electoral agenda specifically the 2018 harmonised elections.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti’s opposition PDP party complained that the financing by Sakunda is being done parallel to the legal framework of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for which oversight is in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe through their elected representatives in Parliament.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has told the National Assembly that government engaged Sakunda Holdings to bankroll Command Agriculture after realising that commercial banks were not lending to farmers.

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