EDITORIAL COMMENT: Govt must come up with strategies to ensure farmers are not fleeced

Dr Christopher Mushohwe

Dr Christopher Mushohwe

Zimbabwe cannot afford to frustrate its farmers who worked so hard last season to enable the country to regain its food security. Cabinet said this week that it is alarmed by the abuse of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board staff. After its meeting on Monday, Cabinet warned GMB workers conniving with unlicensed grain merchants to prejudice farmers that they will face punitive action.

Cabinet heard that there were some unscrupulous businesspeople who were discouraging farmers from delivering their produce to the GMB claiming that the parastatal was no longer accepting the grain because the silos were full.

In a statement after the Cabinet meeting, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Christopher Mushohwe said Cabinet was concerned with the ill-treatment of farmers delivering grain to the GMB.

“Cabinet has warned GMB workers against ill-treating farmers who deliver their grain and will take corrective action against such culprits. GMB should receive and accept all grain delivered to its depots across the country in an open and transparent manner,” said Dr Mushohwe.

Cabinet noted that besides the peddling of falsehoods by those discouraging farmers from delivering their produce to GMB, some depots were rejecting delivery of small grains. Dr Mushohwe said those found conniving or colluding with unlicensed grain merchants to prejudice farmers and the State will be dealt with resolutely in terms of the country’s laws.

He called on farmers and the public at large to expose and report all malpractices by public officials and the bogus grain buyers and sellers to the Agriculture Ministry or the police. More than one million tonnes of maize have so far been delivered to the Grain Marketing Board much to the chagrin of the prophets of doom who were claiming that Government was inflating figures of the expected harvest.

The bulk of the maize so far delivered is from famers contracted under the Command Agriculture and other commercial farmers. Most small-scale, resettled and communal farmers are yet to deliver their produce. Government said the country is expecting to harvest four million tonnes of grain which is more than its annual consumption.

The Command Agriculture Programme in just one season has enabled the country to regain its food security. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said recently that Government is committed to ensuring that all the grain is delivered to the GMB before the onset of the rains.

He directed the GMB to activate satellite collection points to mop up all the grain and Cabinet on Monday also emphasised the need for GMB to urgently set up satellite depots in order to reduce the farmers’ transport costs and boost deliveries. We want to implore Government to come up with a monitoring mechanism to ensure our hardworking farmers are not frustrated by GMB workers who seem not to appreciate the importance of having adequate food.

We have said it before that time is running out and the rains are just around the corner while we still have a lot of grain awaiting delivery. All the grain should have been delivered to the GMB by the end of this month to avoid compromising quality.

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