GMB leases silos as grain reserves dry up

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THE struggling Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is now renting out some of its grain storage space nationwide in what amounts to confirmation by the parastatal there are no grain reserves in the country.

Hazel Ndebele/Elias Mambo

As per government mandate, GMB at its peak in the 1990s used to keep 500 000 metric tonnes of grain reserves annually, but the situation has since changed for the worse.

An advert in the local media last week read: “Grain Marketing Board offers grain storage space for hire at its concrete cylindrical silos and bag depots across the country, storage application forms are available at the nearest GMB depot. Terms, conditions and storage charges will be as per GMB storage contract.”

The GMB is in a dire financial state and currently owes farmers US$49 million for grain delivered during 2013/14 marketing season. Some farmers have been demanding their grain back following the non-payment.

Zimbabwe has endured a poor 2014/15 farming season due to a combination of factors including drought, input shortages and lack of finance for farmers as banks remain reluctant to lend to new farmers who lack collateral.

The country, facing a stubborn liquidity crunch, will be forced to use scarce foreign currency to import 1,2 million tonnes of maize to feed the nation between now and the next harvest in 2016.
Last Tuesday the Commercial Farmers’ Union deputy director Marc Wilson said the country’s current national average yield is 700kg per hectare and yet the country needs almost two tonnes per hectare so as to meet national demand.

“With proper management and skills, farmers can achieve higher yields. There is a slow uptake of conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe and yet this is the most important method which farmers need to learn to boost food security. Zambia has done well because it has embraced this type of farming,” said Wilson.

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