Source: Derelict silos threaten Zim bumper harvest | The Financial Gazette April 6, 2017
By Problem Masau
AS much as 30 percent of Zimbabwe’s anticipated bumper harvest could be lost to adverse weather conditions as the majority of the country’s grain silos are in a serious state of dereliction thereby leaving the nation with inadequate storage facilities.
The State granary, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), indicated early this year that it only has three functional silos out of the 12 dotted across the country.
While government is mobilising resources to have the badly damaged silos repaired, it could be a question of too little, too late as farmers will this month start to harvest their grain.
Agronomist, Knight Chigara, said the country was at risk of losing about 30 percent of its harvest if the silos are not rehabilitated.
This amounts to an estimated 600 000 tonnes of the expected two million-tonnes of grain to be harvested.
But even for those farmers who will be lucky to have their crop stored in functional silos, the state of the storage facilities would, to a large extent, determine the quality of the produce at the time it is released for consumption.
“These are strategic reserves and because they are no longer moisture proof, we are looking at a situation whereby the total harvest amounting to about 30 percent can be lost,” said Chigara.
“With the moisture permeable silos, the parastatal may fail to meet the requirements of the strategic grain reserve due to stocks damaged by moisture and a huge loss of revenue due to poor storage facilities,” he added.
During the 2017 pre-budget seminar, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Mechanisation raised similar concerns.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee early this year, the secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Ringson Chitsiko, said GMB required at least US$50 million to repair the storage facilities that are crumbling due to years of neglect.
A few years ago, Comptroller and Auditor General, Mildred Chiri, raised the issue of funding as critical in reasserting the parastatal’s grain reserve status, but indications on the ground point to very little to nothing having been done so far to refurbish the dilapidated silos.
In her report on State parastatals and enterprises presented to Parliament, Chiri, noted that the grain silos were no longer moisture proof and grain stored in these bins was at risk of rotting.
“The grain silos are either cracked and they let water seep in from below due to dysfunctional drainage systems. As such, grain stored in these bins either cakes or loses quality over time since silo plants have not been regularly serviced,” she said in her report.
Storage bins, which also offer storage to private entities for a fee, at Aspindale depot, Norton, Concession, Magunje, Banket and Lions’ Den are crumbling due to massive seepage and peeling of their internal walls, which has reportedly made them largely unfit to store maize for human and even animal consumption.
The Lions’ Den silos, near Chinhoyi, are the world’s third largest with a 104 000 metric tonne holding capacity.
The country’s 12 silos are designed to hold up to 434 300 metric tonnes of strategic grain reserves.
Zimbabwe has not been able to achieve this in decades.
GMB has, however, a 3 973 000 tonnes storage and handling capacity.
This includes 434 300 tonnes of silos, 3 365 000 tonnes of hard stands and 173 700 tonnes of shed storage.
Harvesting of the 2017 cereal crops is expected to commence this month, with reaping of the bulk of the maize crop to last up to June.
Contacted for comment this week, Agriculture Minster, Joseph Made, could only say: “It is our chief priority to rehabilitate the silos.”
GMB’s communications manager, Muriel Zemura, referred all questions to her junior, Joseph Katete, who, however, said he could not speak because he had been instructed by Minister Made not to talk to the media.