Zimbabwe is expecting a bumper maize harvest this cropping season which is a very welcome development given the amount of the much-needed foreign currency the country is spending on food imports. According to agricultural experts, all indications are pointing to a bumper harvest and the bulk of the maize is expected to come from farmers under the Government initiated Command Agriculture Programme.
The Government target is to produce 2,2 million tonnes of maize this season which is enough to meet the nation’s food requirements. Farmers under the programme are being assisted with inputs that include fertilizer, seed, chemicals and diesel for tillage. The farmers in turn are expected to deliver five tonnes per hectare to the Grain Marketing Board.
What this means is that the GMB should have facilities to hold more than 500 000 tonnes of maize expected to be delivered by farmers this season. It is therefore disturbing to learn that the GMB has only three functional silo depots out of its 12 storage facilities countrywide.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Mechanisation on Tuesday, Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Mr Ringson Chitsiko, said the GMB should urgently ensure the silos are functional. GMB requires at least $50 million to repair the storage facilities that are crumbling due to years of neglect.
The quality of grain depends on the state of storage facilities so it is imperative for the GMB to ensure it has the best storage facilities. Work on rehabilitating these facilities should start immediately so that it is completed before farmers start delivering the maize to the various depots throughout the country.
GMB is responsible for the storage of strategic grain reserves and relies on Treasury for resources to ensure that the storage facilities are in good state.
Government should therefore prioritise the allocation of resources to the GMB to fund the repair of the nine storage facilities before harvesting starts. It should not allow a situation whereby GMB fails to provide adequate storage facilities for the delivered maize thereby compromising quality.
What is encouraging is that Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa is seized with the challenges of the expected bumper harvest but what is crucial, as already stated, is to prioritise the issue of providing resources to repair GMB storage facilities.
Government should also ensure adequate resources are mobilised to pay farmers on time once they deliver the maize so that they are able to prepare for the winter crop which Government has indicated will also be under Command Agriculture.
Government should also ensure there is adequate transport to ferry the maize to the various GMB depots. We want to once again implore Government to urgently mobilise the required funding for the repair of the GMB storage facilities so that the facilities are ready before the harvest.
Article Source: The Chronicle