The struggling Grain Marketing Board (GMB) says it still owes farmers $49 million for grain delivered during 2013/14 marketing season and has called on government to pay for grain reserves, Parliament heard today.
Presenting oral evidence before a parliamentary committee on peace and security, GMB acting general manager, Lawrence Jasi said government should pay for grain reserves and ease the burden on the board.
In 1996, government mandated the GMB to purchase and keep 500 000 metric tonnes of grain reserves annually.
GMB was also expected to operate on commercial lines to fund its own operations but has had to subsidize government from its funds.
“If government wants strategic grain reserves, it has to be funded 100 percent by the government and if it’s (maize) not for sale how does GMB make money?” Jasi queried.
So far, he said, other countries such as Botswana, Malawi and Zambia had grain reserves being paid for by government.
He said government must also handle fees for the grain, which include $3.80 per metric tonne and $10 in handling fees.
“That is the money we use to pay workers, buy sacks, attend to silos from time to time so they don’t deteriorate,” he said, adding that there was need to “bite the bullet” and face the truth on the matter.
GMB buys grain from farmers at $390 per tonne and sells it for $441, but Jasi said they were failing to find buyers.
So far this year, Jasi said the authority had received $50 million through the Agricultural Marketing Authority raised through bills.
“If we are going to be using money from the market, the investor needs a return,” he said, adding that maize bought using these funds should be tradable to pay the remaining farmers.
Lawmaker Fortune Charumbira said GMB offered higher prices for maize which were not realistic as it continues to struggle to pay, resulting in some farmers selling their grain to merchants for half the price.
“Some people are complaining that they sell grain cheaper because the GMB price is fictitious, no one he has ever been paid. If you want to help people (farmers), let there be a market for it so that people can go and sell,” he said.- The Source