via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Grain Marketing Board compromising farmers’ operations: Made 03 January 2014
THE Agriculture Minister, Dr Joseph Made, this week said delays by Treasury in releasing funds to Grain Marketing Board to clear a $6,1 million debt owed to farmers is having a debilitating effect on the 2013/14 season as farmers are unable to realise their potential due to lack of financing.
Dr Made said GMB owed farmers $6,1 million for deliveries made last year, a development that was compromising operations since some of them lacked access to the financing they need.
GMB’s grain procurement scheme is wholly funded by Government to boost the Strategic Grain Reserve.
Dr Made argued that Treasury must capacitate GMB urgently so that farmers get their dues and invest in infrastructure, working capital and bridge financing to cover the period between the harvest of their crop and when they sell.
Government is targeting to put 1,6 million hectares under maize to produce 2,2 million tonnes for domestic consumption, but lack of funding is a major setback in the production chain.
Some farmers have scaled down maize production because GMB takes up to two years to pay them and, besides, they also get a lower price than the Government pays to import maize.
The farmers’ lack of negotiating power on the producer price means that the downward pressure on prices from large buyers can result in a farmer selling their crop for less money than invested in producing it.
The high demand and lack of supply for long-term loans that provide farmers with the opportunity to invest in new technologies and equipment that can lead to improved efficiency and higher yields over a sustained period was another major drawback.
Without these loans farmers would not have enough cash on hand to finance operations, potentially causing a shortfall in their personal finances, and scale down operations.
“Our biggest battle at the moment is to get farmers who delivered their maize and wheat last year (to GMB) paid. GMB still owes farmers $6,1 million and that is not good for the farmer who is operating under the current volatile economic environment.
“The farmers desperately need that money.
“We are battling with Treasury. I am hopeful the Ministry of Finance is going to assist so that farmers have money they need to finance their operations,” said Dr Made.
“At the moment most farmers are using limited financial resources; they need the money that GMB owes them. For farmers to produce they need money. Government cannot expect farmers to produce when it is failing pay for their produce. The production chain is hamstrung,” said Dr Made.
Dr Made said the prospects of the 2013/14 season were brighter — with a first half that was hugely characterised by good rains in most parts of the country.
The maize, tobacco and small grain crops were in healthy condition.
“The season looks bright and those farmers who can should still plant maize, sugar beans, soya beans and cow-peas. We hope the second half won’t be difficult because of the mid-season drought,” he said.
Dr Made also hailed the Presidential Inputs Scheme, which availed basic inputs, for touching the lives of rural people.
The input support scheme benefited communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A1 farmers with a combined coverage of 1,6 million households.
They got 10kg of maize/small grain seed, 50kg compound D fertiliser and 50kg lime for each household.
“All of its investments are designed to have a positive social impact on the lives of smallholder farmers. Investing in smallholder farmers directly reflects our desire to strengthen grain supply chains and improve the livelihood of farmers around the country. We need other stakeholders to pool resources to meet the needs of these smallholder farmers,” said Dr Made.
He expressed gratitude to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), working in conjunction with other co-operating partners to partner Government by establishing packages focusing on the unmet demand for smallholder farmers.
They will also provide technical assistance to the farmers as a means of strengthening their management and agricultural practices.
By addressing both the lack of access to appropriate funding and some of the factors that create operational gap the package seeks to further stimulate the development of smallholder farmers.