THE under fire Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has floated $75 million agro-bills for the purchase of maize from farmers in the 2018 season.
AMA, which recently came under attack from Government and farmers for dereliction of duty, said the maize would be bought through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
Said AMA in a statement: “The Agricultural Marketing (AMA) intends to issue AMA Bills of up to $75 million to finance the purchase of maize grain for the 2018 buying season through the Grain Marketing Board.
“CBZ Holdings Limited, as the financial advisor, hereby invites corporate and individual investors to subscribe to the AMA Bills. Applications must be for a minimum of $5 000 and in multiples of $5 000 thereafter.”
The AMA Bills have a tenor of 360 days from the first day of allotment.
Interest rate is pegged at 7 percent per annum.
Offers for the bills opened yesterday.
The bills have special features which include prescribed asset status, liquid asset status and tax exemption status.
Government is the guarantor for the bills.
However, some agriculture experts yesterday said while AMA was now living to its mandate, the move to raise funds now was fairly late given that most farmers had already sold their grain to GMB.
The experts said it was unsurprising that Government was keen to restructure the organisation, to enable it to resolve the challenges faced by farmers when marketing their produce.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently told the 6th Annual National Agribusiness Conference held concurrently with the Harare Agricultural Show, that moves to restructure AMA were at an advanced stage.
“My Government will soon be restructuring the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to make it more responsive to address these marketing gaps within the sector . . . and deal decisively with side marketing.
“Going forward, it will be equally important to address the export market for our agricultural produce,” said President Mnangagwa.
Government wants to restructure AMA given the new thrust where farming must be seen as a business.
Vice President Chiwenga recently said one key aspect that makes any business successful is the availability and accessibility of properly functioning markets.
Due to the absence of many viable markets in the country, some farmers particularly in the horticulture sector whose products have a short shelf-life, lose potential incomes or end up selling their produce at ridiculously low prices to unscrupulous middlemen, just to salvage some money to feed families to return to the fields.
Other farmers have abandoned the growing flowers due to lack of readily accessible foreign markets and the failure to meet the expected quality standards.
AMA was set up by Government primarily to promote agricultural production of strategic crops such as tobacco, cotton, sugar, soya beans and barley.
The organisation is also mandated with promoting marketing and fair pricing of agricultural commodities and promoting contract farming through encouraging private sector participation.
However, there is consensus among players in the agricultural sector that AMA has dismally failed to represent their interests, especially marketing produce, and should therefore be restructured.
Last year, Government, through the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), invested $62 million to support farmers but AMA is alleged to have failed to shield farmers from aggressive, but unscrupulous fly by night private players who wanted to buy cotton whose growing they didn’t sponsor.