The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) will establish 1 800 mobile buying points countrywide by the end of this month as part of a cocktail of measures to ratchet up preparations for a record-breaking bumper harvest that will see the country achieving a food surplus.
Zimbabwe this year expects to produce 2,5 million to 2,8 million tonnes of maize and 360 000 tonnes of traditional grains, in what could turn out to be the largest yield achieved by the country since the fast-track land reform commenced in 2000.
About two million tonnes of cereals consisting of 1,8 million tonnes of maize and 200 000 tonnes of traditional grains are expected to be delivered to the GMB. This year’s grain marketing season commences on 1 April and the grain utility is pulling all stops to ensure that it is adequately prepared.
Unlike previous seasons, when the maize producer price was announced just before or during the marketing season, Government has already set the maize producer price at $32 000 per tonne, up from the $21 000 that was paid for last year.
Previous seasons have seen the GMB affected by post-harvest losses such as storage challenges but this year, the parastatal says it is positioned to avoid any shortcomings. In an interview with our Harare Bureau, GMB chief executive officer Mr Rockie Mutenha said this year, the parastatal’s mandate has been expanded under Government’s Agriculture and Food Transformative Strategy, to ensure that farmers who benefitted from Government programmes like the Pfumvudza/Intwasa and Command Agriculture deliver to GMB.
“The new GMB is involved throughout the agricultural value chain from inputs distribution, to monitoring production together with Agritex officials as well as ensuring that the harvest finds its way to GMB and thus contribute to the national food security.
“It was a successful season and it is most likely to break new records. This year we are expecting a bumper harvest and GMB as the biggest contractor through the Government sponsored scheme Pfumvudza and CBZ Agro Yield, the role of GMB is to provide a competitive market and mop up the maize, traditional grains and other grains that have been produced by farmers to ensure that they are delivered to GMB.”
With regard to logistics, Mr Mutenha said GMB was well prepared for the marketing season with its workers preparing storage resources that include silos for bulky storage of grain, warehouses or inside storage as well as outside storage. He said GMB was also refurbishing stacker machines to ensure that the turnaround time of deliveries at GMB depots will be less than one hour for 30 tonne trucks. Mr Mutenha said weighbridges and scales were ready for use.
“In terms of Power Backup, all Silo depots now have 250-300 KVa Generators as backup in the event of power outage. At Bag Depots we are installing Solar system besides the 5.5KVa generators to provide power for the weighbridges, computers and lighting. In terms of collection and mobile Buying points, we aim to establish 1 800 Collection and Buying Points. So far we have identified 1 350. We have also secured 665 Buying Points from Cottco.
These become a One- Stop-Shop for both cotton and maize deliveries. We have also secured space from private companies either in the form of sheds or silos.”
Last year, GMB received 259 345 tonnes of maize after the season was hampered by drought. In addition to the poor harvest GMB also faced competition from private buyers as the parastatal delayed payments. Mr Mutenha said this term, GMB plans to pay farmers within 72 hours of delivery.
“We have decentralised our payment system. Depot Managers have been empowered to pay from the depots so that reduces the turnaround time. Government has already announced the producer price which is competitive. We intend to pay farmers within 72 hours of receipt of grain at GMB depots.”
He said the GMB will intensify educational campaigns to farmers who have been previously duped by unscrupulous buyers and also refine the systems at depots to reduce the turnaround time. Mr Mutenha revealed that the GMB had introduced the Farmers Card which is linked to Visa Cards and will enable farmers to do their normal banking transactions.
“The advantage of this Farmers Card is that it lessens the waiting period between farmers’ delivery and payment since no transfers will be needed to be done with the bank.”