ZIMBABWE – The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has secured $200 million to buy grain from local farmers amid revelations that imports have been banned after permits were last issued in February.

The import ban will save the country $500 million.

GMB is paying the highest price for maize, sorghum and millet in the Sadc region at $390 per tonne and there were fears that unscrupulous businesspeople could import grain for resale to GMB.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Davis Marapira yesterday said GMB has $200 million in its coffers to buy maize from local farmers.

He defended the high maize price of $390 per tonne offered by GMB amid fears that cheap maize from other countries in the region that are expecting a bumper harvest such as South Africa could be smuggled here for resale to GMB.

“The US$200 million war chest that GMB has to buy maize from our local farmers came from Treasury and private sources and we hope the purchasing of maize to intensify from mid-July (next month) when the maize moisture content would have gone down to acceptable levels.

“GMB will buy maize from local farmers from the funds they have and more money will be available to purchase locally produced maize because the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe will in turn purchase at least 800 000 tonnes of maize from GMB this year,” he said.

“Government stopped issuing Grain Import permits about four months ago and no maize imports are allowed at our borders and the only way that maize can be brought into the country will be through smuggling but we now have advanced modern scanning equipment at our points of entry that will detect that.

“The only way maize may be brought into the country is if officials manning our ports of entry are bribed to allow the maize through but that is something that we do not have control over otherwise Government has banned grain imports into the country.”

He said Zimbabwe was offering local farmers a higher price for a tonne of maize and small grains as a way of incentivising them to produce more considering that Zimbabwe has been a net food importer over the past few years.

“The $390 per tonne of grain is very sustainable and was arrived at out of the need to incentivise our farmers to produce more grain so that we become self-reliant in food production.

We also factored in the high cost of producing grain in this country compared to other countries and saw it fit to give our farmers a higher price to cushion and make their operations profitable,” Deputy Minister Marapira said.

He also revealed that the Grain Millers Association had availed $8 million to repair GMB silos countrywide to enhance storage capacity.

He said although maize purchases from local farmers by GMB had already started, the exercise was expected to intensify by mid-next month with the country expected to have stocked 500 000 tonnes in strategic grain reserves, by September.

“At the moment GMB has 180 000 tonnes of maize in the Strategic Grain Reserves and out of that maize, about 56 000 tonnes is new maize delivered by farmers from their produce in the just-ended farming season.

“We expect maize deliveries to GMB to intensify from mid-next month and by September we expect to have enough maize in the Strategic Grain Reserves.

Maize purchases by GMB are still low because the grain still has high moisture content,” Deputy Minister Marapira said.

Zimbabwe, hesaid, will this year save about $500 million by not importing grain as the country recorded a bumper harvest in the just-ended farming season.

He credited the Command Agriculture programme and Presidential Inputs Support Scheme for stimulating grain production saying Government would continue to support local farmers to engender food security in the country.

Government introduced the Command Agriculture Scheme that saw farmers getting agricultural support on credit with the state recouping its assistance after harvest.

President Mugabe assigned Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to oversee the Scheme which has been a resounding success and for the first time in years, Zimbabwe is expecting to realise over 2 million tonnes of maize this year compared to about 1 million tonnes achieved last year.

Besides goods rains, Zimbabwe’s aggregate maize output for the 2016/17 agricultural season is also bouyed by the $192 million Command Agriculture Scheme which saw Government assisting thousands of farmers with inputs as part of efforts to ensure the country becomes a net food exporter.

June 13, 2017: The Herald