Middlemen ‘hijack’ GMB Mash West depots

Source: Middlemen ‘hijack’ GMB Mash West depots | The Herald July 7, 2017

Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau—
Grain Marketing Board (GMB) officials are reportedly facilitating the buying and storage of grain at silos by some middlemen, who now enjoy VIP status. Once it is known that the grain belongs to the middlemen, some of them remaining white farmers, it automatically evades rigorous scrutiny that has frustrated other farmers.

It has also emerged that low rung middlemen are being paid as little as $10 per tonne and connive with GMB officials to allow grain rejected on grounds of having high moisture content accepted.

“If you just pay $10 to the middlemen they ensure you that the grain that has been rejected is accepted,” said a man who buys maize from desperate farmers around Chinhoyi before taking it to GMB.

“It is easier if the grain is delivered under the name of someone who seems to get VIP treatment by GMB staff.”

The top middlemen are paying between $200 and $300 per tonne in cash on the spot.

Transfers are paid up to $330 per tonne.

After several days, the middlemen get rich pickings as GMB will buy the grain at $390 per tonne, while farmers count their losses after factoring in the cost of inputs.

Players in the agriculture sector have called on Government to protect farmers from such exploitation.

Affirmative Action Group Mashonaland West Province chapter visited GMB Lion’s Den depot on Monday on a fact finding mission following reports of farmers being duped.

“We have established that there are white farmers that are buying maize from the local farmers at a very low price of around $200 per tonne,” said AAG chief executive office Mr Tapiwanashe Chikondowa.

“The middlemen then sell to GMB. We urge Government to step in and stop the exploitation of farmers by the unscrupulous dealers, including a white farmer from Chinhoyi.”

GMB officials did not respond to written questions forwarded to them.

It also emerged that the moisture testing machine at Lion’s Den depot broke down recently.

The depot is using a machine borrowed from a Mhangura farmer.

The AAG called on Government to ensure GMB paid farmers within three days to starve off the black market.

“Some farmers are being lured by promises of instant money, which will work against the upliftment of farmers, who will continue being dependent on Government,” said Mr Chikondowa.

There have been issues on the calibration of the moisture testing machines.

GMB officials, who cannot be named, said the machines were calibrated to conform to moisture levels that can be stored in the silos.

The officials said moisture content requirements for Norton and Banket, for instance, were different depending on intended use of the grain.

GMB requires moisture content of 12,5 percent or lower.

Farmers have been battling to meet GMB moisture requirements amid allegations of fake readings to push them to sell to middlemen, who operate outside depots.