MUTARE — Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister, Joseph Made says delays by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to clear a US$6,1 million debt owed to farmers will negatively affect the 2013/14 farming season.
BY CLAYTON MASEKESA
Many farmers have not yet received payment for last year’s grain delivered to GMB. This has crippled their operations as some of them lack alternative financing.
In a recent interview, Made said the affected farmers should get their dues as soon as possible.
“They (farmers) need to invest in infrastructure, working capital and bridge financing to cover the period between the harvest of their crop and when they sell,” he said.
He said government was targeting to put 1, 6 million hectares under maize this year to produce 2,2 million tonnes required for domestic consumption.
“But as a country we lack funding. This is a major setback in the production chain,” he said.
“The biggest challenge is to get farmers who delivered their maize and wheat to GMB last year paid. This is not good for the farmer who is operating under the current volatile economic environment.”
Irate farmers interviewed said they had scaled down maize production because GMB was taking up to two years to pay them.
“For us to produce we need money. Government cannot expect farmers to produce when it is failing pay for our produce,” said Peter Magosvongwe, an A2 farmer in Mutare.
“Apart from not being paid, the producer price of maize is too low compared to what government forks out when importing the commodity.”
Another farmer, Moses Mufandaedza said farmers were making huge losses from selling maize at uncompetitive prices.
Other farmers said banks should provide them with loans to enable them to finance their operations.
Titus Chiripanyanga, a farmer from Odzi, said without financing, the current farming season is doomed.
He said farmers needed money to buy equipment and invest in new technologies which helps in improving productivity.
GMB general manager, Albert Mandizha could not be reached for comment last week.
But an official who requested anonymity blamed the Ministry of Finance for the non-payment of farmers.
“It is not our fault. In as much as we want to pay the farmers, we are battling with Treasury to get the funds,” he said.