THE government, through the bankrupt Grain Marketing Board (GMB), has failed to pay wheat farmers producer prices and bonuses in another display of inefficiency by the Agriculture ministry.
Farmers who delivered wheat early to the GMB hoping to use the proceeds to finance this season’s maize crop are stranded as there is no money to pay them.
Tobacco farmers this week also said they had not been paid bonuses announced by government five months ago.
Farmers who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent expressed grave concern over the GMB’s inefficiency, which they said would affect the whole farming cycle as “present farming expenditure heavily depends on profits made from current yields”.
This is set to jeopardise government’s efforts to revive the ailing agricultural sector.
Government this year announced a producer a price of $6,9 million per tonne for wheat, from $2,4 million paid last year. Farmers said this was still unsustainable as they needed an initial capital outlay of about $14 million to cater for production costs, prompting them hold on to the crop.
Government, which was importing wheat at over $20 million a tonne, through the central bank, responded by announcing a bonus price of $3 million a tonne over and above the producer price, thereby pushing the new offer price to $9,9 million a tonne. Due to this lure, the farmers started delivering the crop they were holding but cheques have not come from the central bank.
“We were desperate for money,” said a farmer who preferred anonymity.
“We proceeded to deliver our crop since the new buying price was fair, but up until now we’ve not received a penny. One wonders how the farming community is going to produce without sufficient capital. No wonder the so-called land reform is failing.”
Farmers have also been cast into financial difficulties as their bank loans are overdue and continue accruing interest.
Ironically, government is making a windfall by charging millers $12 million for a tonne of wheat, paid in advance while taking months to pay the producer.