George Maponga in Masvingo
Grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board have hit 540 000 tonnes with an additional 100 satellite depots having been opened countrywide to stock grain from the bumper harvest realised in the just – ended farming season.
The development comes as most GMB silos in places such as Lions’ Den, Concession and Chegutu among others have already filled up with maize delivered by farmers.
Zimbabwe is this year expecting an aggregate of over four million tonnes of maize after a successful farming season that was anchored on the Government’s Command Agriculture Scheme which saw farmers receiving agricultural inputs support from the state on loan.
Tens of thousands of rural farmers also received inputs support through the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme which targets mainly communal A1 farmers who get seed and fertilisers for free.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira, yesterday revealed that over 500 000 tonnes of maize have been delivered to GMB depots to date.
He said grain deliveries were expected to intensify this month as most of the maize has reached the required moisture content level of 12,5 percent.
‘’Most GMB silos in areas such as Concession, Lions’ Den, Chegutu and Banket have now filled up with maize delivered by farmers and we have since started moving some of the maize to other smaller depots to create space for more deliveries,’’ he said.
‘’We have also since engaged millers to start collecting maize from these depots that have filled up so that we create space for more maize as more deliveries continue to come,’’ he added.
He said that the Government was working flat out to make sure there were enough grain bags in the country to pack the maize pending delivery to GMB.
‘’As of today (yesterday) we had 540 000 tonnes of maize in our GMB depots and we have opened over 100 new satellite depots countrywide to collect maize from farmers. Grain bags are coming from South Africa and we hope to have sufficient stocks to meet demand from farmers.
‘’By September, we hope that GMB would have collected more than one million tonnes of maize because we expect deliveries to pick up beginning this month as most of the grain has attained the required moisture content level of 12,5 percent,’’ he said.
Deputy Miinister Marapira added that more GMB satellite depots to collect maize from farmers will continue to be opened as and when it is necessary.
‘’We were lucky that over the past three weeks, most parts of the country recorded high temperatures which expedited the drying of maize that was already in the fields. Most of our farmers also managed to acquire grain dryers so we are now expecting grain deliveries to pick up.’’
Police, he said, had impounded Zimbabwe-bound trucks laden with maize that was coming from Zambia saying it was a clear sign that Government was strict on the maize importation ban.
He however, said the trucks would be released after it emerged that they were carrying GMB maize that was purchased from Zambia but delivered late.
‘’We have since established that the trucks were carrying GMB maize. That maize is state property and the trucks will be released. The maize was paid for by GMB but delivered late after we had already stopped importation of maize in February. Government is serious on the maize import ban and no grain imports will be accepted,’’ said Deputy Minister Marapira.
Initially they were complaints from farmers who were being turned away from GMB depots around the country because their grain was above the accepted moisture content threshold of 12,5 percent.
The Command Agriculture programme is credited for turning around the country’s agricultural fortunes with Zimbabwe this year expecting to bank in over 2,1 million tonnes of the staple maize crop.
This will make the country self-sufficient in food for the first time in years as Zimbabwe used to rely on food imports.
Government has already announced that it will be expanding the Command Agriculture Scheme by injecting about US$487 million in the programme up from US$192 million in the last farming season.