By Elita Chikwati
Government has started mobilising harvesting machinery and equipment for use by farmers who were contracted under the Special Maize Import Substitute Programme, commonly known as Command Agriculture.
Most farmers have started preparations for harvesting their summer crops.
In a statement yesterday, Government said it was mobilising combine harvesters, shellers and dryers.
“Mobilisation of harvesting facilities, machinery and equipment; the Command Agriculture programme is inviting owners of combine harvesters, threshers or shellers and dryers who wish to hire them in support of the programme to register with the provincial Agritex officers,” reads the statement.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made yesterday urged transporters to register with the Grain Marketing Board so that Government knows the capacity available.
“We appeal to transporters across the country to please come and register with the GMB,” he said. “This does not necessarily mean we will automatically give them the job as there will be procedures to be followed.
“We also appeal to tractor owners to come and register with us. We are not only harvesting, but the harvested crop will be ferried to the GMB, while land preparations for winter wheat will begin.”
Dr Made expressed concern over the GMB’s delay in availing empty grain bags to farmers.
He said GMB was sleeping on the job and was not showing any urgency.
“GMB thinks they should start announcing on the grain bags when farmers start delivering their grain,” said Dr Made. “There are already some farmers who want to deliver their maize and are waiting for the company.
“This is unacceptable. We do not expect farmers to beg GMB or Cottco. Those are things of the past. We should move to the farmers.
“We are grateful to all farmers, under Command Agriculture, Presidential Inputs Scheme and those who used own resources to produce different crops that include maize, small grains, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, among others.
“We should not be seen to be punishing these farmers and should assist them. These commodities are being sort after by Europe, Russia and China.”
In the drier parts of the country, small grains produced are of high quality due to the heavy rains the areas received this year. The condition of livestock is also good, including the quality of the meat because of the availability of pastures and water.
Dr Made said GMB and Cottco should establish delivering points that were close to farmers within five kilometres.
“The five kilometres is the possible maximum distance,” he said.
“If there is a lot of grain in an area, the distance can be reduced to two kilometres or a kilometre.”
Millers will this year buy maize directly from the GMB as opposed to the previous arrangements where some could buy from farmers.
Dr Made applauded millers for contributing $8 million towards the repair of silos at GMB depots.
Recently, the Meteorological Services Department expressed concern over the delay in the drying of the summer crop due to limited sunshine.
The weather experts said the water table in many areas was still too high even though relatively light rains were forecast for April