THE Grain Marketing Board (GMB) will establish 1 800 mobile buying points countrywide by the end of this month as part of a cocktail of measures to ratchet up preparations for a record-breaking bumper harvest that will see the country achieving a food surplus.
Zimbabwe this year expects to produce 2,5 to 2,8 million tonnes of maize and 360 000 tonnes of traditional grains, in what could turn out to be the largest yield achieved by the country since the land reform exercise commenced in 2000.
About two million tonnes of cereals consisting of 1,8 million tonnes of maize and 200 000 tonnes of traditional grains are expected to be delivered to the Grain Marketing Board.
This year’s grain marketing season commences on April 1 and the utility is pulling all the stops to ensure that it is adequately prepared.
Unlike previous seasons when the maize producer price was announced just before or during the marketing season, the Government has already set the maize producer price at $32 000 per tonne, up from $21 000 that was pegged last year.
Previous seasons have seen the GMB affected by post-harvest losses such as storage challenges, but this year the parastatal says it is positioned to avoid any shortcomings.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, GMB chief executive officer, Mr Rockie Mutenha said this year the parastatal’s mandate has been expanded under the Government’s Agriculture and Food Transformative Strategy to ensure that farmers who benefited from Government programmes like the Pfumvudza/Intwasa and Command Agriculture deliver to the parastatal.
“The new GMB is involved throughout the agricultural value chain from inputs distribution to monitoring production together with Agritex officials as well as ensuring that the harvest finds its way to GMB and thus contribute to the national food security,” he said.
“It was a successful season and it is most likely to set new records. This year we are expecting a bumper harvest and GMB as the biggest contractor through the Government sponsored scheme Pfumvudza/Intwasa and CBZ Agro Yield, will provide a competitive market and mop up the maize, traditional grains and other grains that have been produced by farmers to ensure that they are delivered to its silos”.
Currently, GMB’s workers are preparing storage resources that include silos for bulk storage of grain, warehouses or inside storage as well as outside storage.
GMB is refurbishing stacker machines to ensure that the turnaround time of deliveries at its depots will be less than one hour for 30-tonne trucks.
Mr Mutenha said weighbridges and scales have been calibrated and are ready for use.
“In terms of power backup, all silo depots now have 250-300 KVa generators as backup in the event of a power outage. At bag depots we are installing solar systems in addition to the 5.5KVa generators to provide power for the weighbridges, computers and lighting.
“In terms of collection and mobile buying points, we aim to establish 1 800 collection and buying points. So far we have identified 1 350. We have also secured 665 buying points from Cottco. These become a one-stop-shop for both cotton and maize deliveries. We also have space acquired from private companies either in the form of sheds or silos.”
Last year, GMB received just 259 345 tonnes of maize after the season was hampered by drought.
In addition to the poor harvest, GMB faced competition from private buyers as the parastatal delayed payments.
Mr Mutenha said this term, GMB plans to pay farmers within 72 hours of delivery.
“We have decentralised our payment system. Depot managers have been empowered to pay from the depots so that reduces the turnaround time. Government has already announced the producer price which is competitive. We intend to pay farmers within 72 hours of receipt of grain at GMB depots.”
He said the GMB will intensify educational campaigns to farmers who have been previously duped by unscrupulous buyers and refine the systems at depots to reduce the turnaround time.
Mr Mutenha revealed that the GMB had introduced the Farmers Card which is linked to Visa cards and will enable farmers to do their normal banking transactions.
“The advantage of this Farmers Card is that it lessens the waiting period between farmers’ delivery and payment since no transfers will be needed to be done with the bank.”
On Tuesday, Cabinet was informed of preparations for the harvesting season.
Presenting the post-Cabinet briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had adopted the state of preparedness for the 2020/21 Summer Harvesting Period, which was presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka.
She said a number of measures have been proffered by the ministry in anticipation of a bumper harvest.
“The Directorate of Agricultural Engineering, Mechanisation and Soil Conservation has been re-established, with a dedicated Department of Post-Harvest Technology and Storage Engineering to safeguard harvests. Safe storage practices demonstrations using metal silos, granaries, cocoons, haematic bags and ordinary bags have also been budgeted for.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said an additional 72 and 21 combine harvesters from the John Deere Facility and the Belarus Programme will be mobilised, respectively.
Also, 200 shellers, which will be made available through the Land Bank Special Purpose Vehicle, ARDA and GMB on a cost recovery basis, will be produced by the local industry for use in harvesting 200 000 hectares for the 120-day harvesting period.
Said Minister Mutsvangwa: “In the same vein, the Ministry is importing an additional 13 mobile grain dryers from Italy, to the tune of US$1,3 million each, with a capacity of 28 tonnes per shift and up to 140 tonnes per day.”