THE capacity of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to procure grain in the coming year has been further weakened by the government’s failure to provide $1,2 trillion for subsidies under the 20
05 national budget, parliament’s portfolio committee on lands, agriculture and water development heard last week.
The GMB had requested $1,4 trillion from the fiscus for subsidies and future grain procurement but the Ministry of Finance did not make any provision for that.
The parastatal’s chief executive Samuel Muvuti said: “We requested for $1,4 trillion of which $1,2 trillion was meant to cover subsidies. We had expected to channel the difference towards capital expenditure.”
In the absence of government subsidies, GMB cannot carry out planned capital projects as funds from the fiscus are only enough to cover operational costs and to buy commodities from farmers. The GMB, according to Muvuti, expected to venture into flour making and oil extraction projects and to refurbish dilapidated silos countrywide.
“GMB is losing money through contracting private transport companies and thefts of grain and inputs in transit to various destinations,” said Muvuti. Part of the capital expenditure was earmarked for the acquisition of 30-tonne trucks but no provision has been made for that purpose.”
The parastatal had requested $8,5 billion for the acquisition of the 30-tonne trucks, another $8,5 billion for the purchase of computers and $16 billion for the stockfeeds manufacturing centre being established at the Norton depot.
It had also requested $23 billion for the flour making project and $4 billion for the refurbishment of ageing silos.
Muvuti said the treasury did not make a provision for any of the projects despite government making promises in the pre-budget meetings. Executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Dzarira Kwenda said if the government does not provide a special fund through the GMB, farmers would be affected as GMB may fail to pay for grain delivered by the farmers.
Kwenda said: “Unless the government provides a special fund to GMB, farmers will suffer. But I am convinced that the government is aware of GMB’s requirements and how strategic it is to the revival of the economy.”
The ZFU represents between 85% and 90% of registered farmers. He also said that the government had for the first time, not made any provision for farmer organisations.
“Farmers’ organisations have also not been considered in the budget. This will affect our efforts to develop strategies and policies for the distribution of seeds to farmers. We had expected a bigger grant now that the government has committed itself to improve agricultural production.”
MDC shadow Minister for Agriculture Renson Gasela, in an interview said GMB has over the years accumulated a huge deficit due to selling below cost and borrowings to finance day-to-day operations.