Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
A poultry farmer from Chiwundura area has been arrested for illegally buying maize worth over $1,2 million from villagers who benefitted from the Pfumvudza/Intwasa and Presidential Farming Inputs Schemes.
Under the schemes, villagers were given free inputs and were expected to sell their produce to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
After allegedly opening a collection point in Chiwundura, not even a single bucket was delivered to GMB prompting the parastatal to investigate.
Investigations led them to A.G Franceys and Sons warehouse where Kevin Franceys was allegedly buying the maize leading to his arrest.
Seized from the warehouse were 50 by 758 bags of maize which weighed 38 tonnes.
GMB corporate communications manager Mr Nixon Kanyemba confirmed the arrest of Franceys.
He said Franceys – the proprietor of A.G Franceys and Sons – was allegedly arrested for violating Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019, which forbids private sales of maize.
“Yes, we can confirm the arrest of Kevin Francis, a poultry farmer at Umhlari Farm. He was arrested by Gweru rural police working with our GMB personnel and is expected in court on Thursday 5 August 2021. The value of grain recovered is $1 212 800.00,” said Mr Kanyemba.
Sources close to the matter said police also allegedly confiscated records showing the maize purchases.
The documents (receipt books), the source said, allegedly indicate that the buying dates back to April.
“Under the SI only the GMB is permitted to buy maize from producers or export the commodity.
“This farmer was buying maize from Chiwundura farmers who benefitted from Pfumvudza, / Intwasa programme. He was paying US$15 per 50kg contrary to S1 145 of 2019 which prohibits side marketing,” said the source.
The source said the arrest was allegedly made following investigations by GMB officials after zero deliveries were made to their buying point in Chiwundura after two months.
“GMB put a buying centre in Chiwundura and two months down the line not a single bucket was delivered and they carried their investigations and realised that he was allegedly buying from local farmers for his poultry project. A docket under CR 16/08/21 was opened by the police,” added the source.
He said they have since seized 50kg by 758 bags of maize.
In an interview following his arrest, Mr Franceys said he has been buying the maize to support the local community adding that there were times when he tried to get maize from GMB but to no avail.
“For decades I have been supporting the Chiwundura farmers, I have been supporting this community. I have been buying maize from them, supporting them.
“I thought the relationship with the people here would be considered. I have been buying from GMB but at one time went for two months without any maize from GMB Gweru. The alternative has been buying from these farmers, supporting them,” he said.
Government has designated the GMB as the sole buyer of grain and those side-marketing are being prosecuted.
The GMB is expecting an intake of 1,9 million tonnes of grain from farmers during the 2021 grain marketing season.
It is engaging transporters to ferry grain from collection points to the nearby depots.
The parastatal has also increased collection points to 1 365 as part of efforts to decongest GMB depots in compliance with Covid-19 safety guidelines and to bring convenience to farmers.