Elita Chikwati and Daniel Chigunwe
The Grain Marketing Board is paying an average of $1,5 billion to farmers every week for wheat deliveries as the parastatal is working on speeding up payments to ensure farmers get their dues early to prepare for the 2020/21 summer cropping season.
GMB is buying ordinary wheat at $43 778,84 per tonne, while grade A wheat will be paid a premium price of 20 percent above the utility grade at $52 534,61 per tonne.
Of late, farmers have been complaining over delays in payments with others saying they delivered their crop to GMB depots last month.
GMB chief executive Mr Rockie Mutenha attributed the delays in payments to pressure at the few grading facilities.
“This year we are grading into premium and utility grades,” he said.
“We are grading from only five grading points using machines to achieve the correct protein and falling number levels.
“This is putting a bit of pressure on us. This is why we have a challenge, but we are trying to make sure the situation is managed.
“Farmers have continued to deliver their wheat and to date we have received 140 406 tonnes of wheat from farmers. This is an increase from the 43 145 tonnes that had been delivered to GMB depots during the same period last year.”
GMB is expecting 250 000 tonnes of wheat from farmers this season.
The country is expected to harvest nine months’ supply of wheat.
Mazowe North legislator and member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Cde Campion Mugweni expressed concern over the delays and urged the authority to speed up payments to curb side-marketing.
In a recent statement to GMB, Cde Mugweni said several farmers from his area who had delivered their wheat a month ago were still waiting to receive their money.
He said some farmers still had wheat at their farms and delays in payments could discourage them from sending their crop to GMB.
“There is urgent need for GMB to deal with the payment delays so that farmers will also have very little pressure since the 2020-2021 farming season has already approached,” said Cde Mugweni.
“We have many wheat farmers who are still to deliver wheat to the parastatal since the rainfall season is already with us.
“Most of these farmers will also be planning ahead of the season eyeing the proceeds from wheat sales, so as it is currently, we know GMB is under pressure, but we urge the board to attend to these issues as a matter of urgency.”
The country requires at least 400 000 tonnes of wheat a year to meet its flour demands, a tonnage Government is keen to achieve in line with the vision of an upper middle income economy by 2030.