The Grain Marketing Board has started receiving maize from farmers and offering instant payment, with Government expressing satisfaction that some of the deliveries exceed targets.
Government this season assisted farmers under the Specialised Maize Production and Import Substitution Programme, or Command Agriculture, and at least 240 000 hectares were put under the staple crop.
Zimbabwe expects a combined harvest of 2,7 million tonnes of cereals: 2,1 million tonnes of maize and the remainder consisting of pearl millet, finger millet, rapoko and sorghum.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made told The Sunday Mail that maize deliveries to the GMB were averaging 2 500 tonnnes daily. “Those farmers who have started grain delivery are already meeting their obligations as they realised a good return per hectare due to favourable rains and availability of resources.
“Some small-scale farmers are getting seven tonnes per hectare; this is a good sign to us as they will be able to pay back the loans we gave them. Farmers at and near Agriculture Rural Development Authority in Maphisa are harvesting 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare, which is a positive sign. “At least the targets relating to Command Agriculture are well on course. Those who harvested early have already delivered their crop and are already planning for the next season,” said Dr Made.
Government and other stakeholders have set aside US$450 million for grain purchases with payment being done via Treasury for transparency purposes.
Dr Made said the Agriculture Marketing Authority had secured US$62 million while millers released a chunk of the US$312 million they set aside to buy 800 000 tonnes.
He said Government was installing maize storage, drying facilities and purchase points across all districts to ensure swift transactions. “With what we have done so far, it is no longer the GMB of yesterday. Farmers are being paid upon delivery to boost confidence. Had we not been paying upon delivery, farmers would not be coming like they are doing and we are witnessing around 2 500 tonnes per day and sometimes even more than that.”
Government has set up satellite depots in remote areas to cushion farmers from travelling long distances in search for markets. Dr Made said 195 combine harvesters had been secured to assist those with big hectarages.
Zimbabwe requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for human and livestock consumption and 700 000 tonnes for the Strategic Grain Reserve.
This season’s grain harvest is envisaged to reduce Zimbabwe grain import bill by US$200 million.