Sunday, September 24, 2017

US$360m Windfall for Farmers
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Chief Reporter

Farmers who delivered grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are smiling all the way to the bank as the parastatal has promptly doled out at least US$360 million for the produce to date.

The Sunday Mail is reliably informed that Treasury has upped weekly disbursements to GMB, which has seen the parastatal paying about US$40 million to farmers every week.

Notwithstanding some hitches, the GMB is transferring the money into farmers’ accounts within two to three weeks of delivering grain.

This is a notable progression from previous years when payment would take months.

As a result of the effective payment system, many farmers have already started preparing for the forthcoming season.

Buoyed by the success of 2016-17 season, Government has set the tone for yet another bumper harvest during the 2017-18 season.

Last Friday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made told The Sunday Mail that Treasury has “tremendously supported” the post-harvesting season as $360 million has been paid to farmers so far.

“To date, US$360 million has been paid for maize. Deliveries are still coming and we continue to make payments,” he said.

“The pace with which we are paying is smooth and I must commend the Minister of Finance and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for the way they have tremendously supported us.

“I know there may be one or two farmers that may not have been paid as a result of one anomaly or the other, but surely from the broader perspective, the payment system has been very effective this season.”

Dr Made said payment has also been effective for producers of small grains.

“For the first time in so many years, communal farmers have delivered small grains like sorghum, rapoko, cowpeas, sunflower and groundnuts. These are reaching 40 000 metric tonnes.

“The small grain farmers have been paid around US$15 million.

“Soyabean farmers have delivered 18 000 metric tonnes of the crop and have been paid US$12 million.”

Dr Made said the swift payment for grain deliveries has positioned farmers in good stead for the forthcoming season.

He said indications are that the country is heading towards another good season.

The Agriculture Minister said the Presidential Well-Wishers Agriculture Input Scheme would be expanded from benefiting 1,8 million maize producing households to cover the same number of soyabean producers.

“We are also going to have the Cotton Presidential Agriculture Well-Wishers Programme to support 400 000 households,” Dr Made revealed.

In an interview last week, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union executive director Mr Paul Zakaria said although farmers have a few queries, they were largely satisfied with how GMB has handled payments for grain deliveries.

“Farmers are generally happy with the payments.

“However, there are a few cases where some are complaining. We discovered that in the majority of these cases, the problems have to do with the farmers’ banking details or some minor mishaps.

“We engaged GMB and they promised to attend to all the queries.

Speaking during a recent Zanu-PF Breakfast Seminar held in Harare under the theme “Command Agriculture and its impact on industry and the economy at large”, Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the agriculture sector would spur economic growth.

“Under normal circumstances, the agriculture sector provides employment and income for 60 to 70 percent of the population. lt supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings,” he said.

“It is generally accepted that when agriculture performs, the rest of the economy experiences a boom.”

This year, Zimbabwe is projected to harvest at least 2,7 million tonnes of grain in what could turn out to be the largest yield achieved by the country since the fast track land reform programme in 2000.

The country also expects to save up to US$300 million on maize imports after authorities announced a ban on foreign grain imports.

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