BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GOVERNMENT yesterday apologised to farmers over late payment for their grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
The apology was made by Lands and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka in Parliament after MPs grilled him over payment delays.
“As government, we apologise to farmers, who have put so much hard work, for the delay in payment. We want to assure them that government will do everything in its power to ensure that we pay them, “Masuka said.
“However, compared to last season, government has done exceedingly well and we urge farmers to be more patient. When government announced a policy that farmers delivering their grain to GMB depots will be paid within 72 hours, and that those that will deliver to collection points will be paid within five days, that policy has not changed. This was meant to entice and motivate farmers to deliver their grain,” he said.
The minister said the ministry had made plans for 2020 maize deliveries based on the 2018/19 agricultural season.
He said farmers responded overwhelmingly because the harvest had been good, adding that payment was now being made through the banking system.
“The scheme has always been administered through a bank, and GMB was playing its role before government moved in to this next level where the bank identifies the beneficiaries and the government provides a guarantee.
“The only change in the system is the requirement for provision of a government guarantee and the bank selecting the beneficiary for the command agriculture productivity scheme,” he said.
Masuka said the scheme did not change farmers’ obligations to repay their loans.
“We have accelerated identification of farmers who owe banks from those prior years, so that when they deliver in a good season they can also be able to extinguish their obligations from prior years,” Masuka said.
In March this year, government announced the maize producer price of $32 000 per tonne, with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube pledging to provide $60 billion to GMB to enable the parastatal to pay for this year’s grain deliveries.
Zimbabwe is expecting delivery of more than 3,1 million metric tonnes of maize this season.