Farmers have delivered over 230 000 tonnes of maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), with the bulk coming from Mashonaland West and Central provinces.Maize delivered so far is nearly half the total maize harvest for 2016, with the country expecting over 2,1 million tonnes this year owing to a combination of good rains and Government programmes like Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
In total, the country is expecting 4 million tonnes. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made gave the update on grain deliveries during Senate’s question time yesterday.
“At least 230 000 tonnes of maize towards the strategic grain reserve has been delivered and it has come mainly from Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central.
“The maize is mainly from the big farmers and we expect more once the A1 and the communal farmers start delivering,” Dr Made said. GMB is paying $390 per tonne. Dr Made said Government would ensure timely payment of grain delivered.
“We are fully prepared to pay the farmers on time and farmers should have bank accounts so that once the grain is delivered the money is deposited into their accounts. The money should reflect in their accounts between one to two weeks from date of delivery,” he said.
Dr Made said Government had come up with measures to curb corruption at GMB depots following cases where grain turned down for moisture content above 12,5 percent ended up being sold on the black market.
Some desperate farmers have lost their money after selling their maize at below $390 to middlemen, some of whom work in cahoots with GMB employees before the grain is re-sold to the parastatal at the gazetted price.
“We know there are some GMB depots were workers are saying the moisture content is not 12,5 percent. If they (farmers) are not convinced they should approach the police (if they suspect corruption) or our offices. We have had some instances especially in Mashonaland West where some workers have been fired.
“We have also given a directive that Agritex officers should visit farmers and see it while it is still in the field to give a general assessment on moisture content before it is delivered,” he said.
Dr Made said most of the maize varieties grown this year was long season, which took time to dry as it matures late. In Manicaland Province, deliveries are low as harvesting is yet to fully start.
The acting provincial agritex officer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa, said as of Wednesday this week, farmers had delivered only 541 tonnes. Manicaland planted 265 000 hectares of maize out of which a production of 268 000 tonnes is expected.
“So far farmers have delivered 541 tonnes to GMB. The delivery rate is still low across the province because harvesting is still to hit top gear.
“Farmers are not able to sell to GMB due to high moisture content. We expect our deliveries to increase between August and September as the temperatures rise,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.
The maize crop is now under threat from veld fires, termites, theft, stray animals and moulding. Mrs Rwambiwa admitted that farmers were now in a fix as the drying waiting period continues dragging and becoming uneconomical for farmers with a large hectarage.
“The moisture content is still high, therefore farmers cannot harvest and sell to GMB. GMB is not accepting even maize with 13 percent moisture. What is shocking is that the same grain is not moulding in the farmers’ sheds,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.
“The other challenge is that those with a large hectarage require combine harvesters, and those that are there constantly break down and need maintenance. Empty bags are also an issue because GMB is insisting on its own bags, which farmers do not have.
“Those that have shelled their maize are using their own bags leading to double handling as they will be forced to use the bags from GMB.
“Also during the drying waiting period, farmers are expected to maintain and protect the un-harvested grain from insects and pests, veld fires, theft and stray animals, otherwise they risk accruing huge losses,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.
Statistics in the Midlands Province show that 14 911 tonnes grain had been delivered at 10 GMB depots. Of the delivered tonnage 4 556 tonnes are under the Command Agriculture programme while 10 911 are under Presidential Input Support Scheme.
Under small grains 366 tonnes had been delivered as of yesterday. Midlands Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Jason Machaya said farmers under the Command Agriculture programme and the Presidential Input Support Scheme were still delivering maize and small gains at GMB depots.
He said to ease the burden of transportation and mass storage of grain by the GMB depots there were 441 collection points in the province to enable easy purchasing and transportation of grain.
“As of today (yesterday) a total of 14 911 tonnes of maize and 366 tonnes of small grain had been delivered at GMB depots. 4556 tonnes are under Command agriculture and 10 911 are under the Presidential Input Support Scheme. From the collection points the maize will then be taken to 10 GMB depots in the province,” he said.
In Masvingo, deliveries were low owing to high moisture content. A survey by The Herald at some of the depots showed little activity.
Only one GMB depot at Jerera Growth point in Zaka had managed to take delivery of a reasonable amount of maize with 366 tonnes so far out of 10 000 expected from the district.
At the main depot in Masvingo City there were no meaningful deliveries, a situation attributed to high moisture content. Acting depot manager Mr Radzikai Mukoriro refused to comment about maize deliveries saying he was not allowed to speak to the press.
Officials at the depot who spoke on condition of anonymity said they expected maize deliveries to start picking at the end of this month. Workers at the depot were busy preparing more storage space in anticipation of deliveries.
Reports from Mashonaland West say while service at GMB depots had significantly improved, shortage of grain bags was delaying deliveries by farmers.
“There are no grain bags at depots and this delays deliveries of grain by farmers. Moisture content is no longer a major issue since the visit by Vice President Mnangagwa,” said a source at the Banket depot.
Long queues were seen at GMB depot in Chegutu as farmers delivered their grain. The Chronicle visited the GMB Bulawayo depot where it observed a long queue of delivery trucks bringing grain to the facility. Sources at the depot said despite hectic business, deliveries were yet to reach a peak as most grain still has high moisture content.
“Most farmers are still waiting for their maize to properly dry up because if they send their grain to GMB still highly moisturised, they will not get a good deal. So farmers should be very patient and ensure that their maize has dried up,” said an agricultural extension officer who declined to be named.
In Gwanda in Matabeleland South Province, grain deliveries have increased steadily. Although the quantity delivered so far was not readily available, scores of trucks were delivering grain at the depot. Two intake ramps for the grain had been established at the depot in anticipation to receive large quantities.
An employee at the depot who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Our team is on the ground testing the moisture content as we anticipate huge volumes of grain to be delivered. Farmers in the province and Gwanda in particular had a bumper harvest due to the good rains which fell in the last rainy season,” he said.
In Matabeleland North, delivery in Nkayi delivery has been slow because of high moisture content.
Farmers bemoaned failure to procure driers. The last delivery was on July 6 and it was 20 tonnes in Binga.
A total of 119,5 tonnes of maize were delivered in the province to date.