THE government is struggling to pay on time farmers who have delivered maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) with the debt ballooning to billions of Zimbabwean dollars, official documents show.
This comes as legislators this week raised fresh concerns over massive debts owed to cotton farmers on deliveries made last year amounting to ZW$1,5 billion (US$17,4 million).
Zimbabwe recorded a bumper harvest in the past farming season following abundant rainfall, with authorities estimating a maize output of between 2,5 million and 2,8 million metric tonnes.
An additional 360 000 metric tonnes of traditional grains have also been projected, according to official statistics.
But the expanded output appears to have exerted fresh pressures on the government’s capacity to pay farmers after pegging this year’s producer price at ZW$32 000 (about US$376) per tonne.
This translates to about ZW$80 billion (about US$940 million) funding required by the GMB to fund this year’s crop – a staggering figure considering that the GMB is struggling to pay up the ZW$5 billion (about US$58 million) owed to farmers.
“It is highlighted that 354 677mt of maize, 616mt of wheat, 10 528mt of soya bean and 34 820mt of traditional grains had been delivered to the GMB as at 4 July 2021,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told the media recently.
“Grain delivered to date is valued at ZW$13 207 081 717,80 (about US$153 million) and ZW$8 300 100 000 (about US$98 million) had been paid to farmers, giving an outstanding balance of ZW$4 906 981 717, 80 (US$58 million).”
She spoke as the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) last week on Friday re-issued ZW$5 billion bills to fund the GMB’s grain purchases.
But financial services giant, CBZ Holdings Limited, which is handling the transaction said the bills had been issued with enhanced features, possibly to make them more attractive to investors.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakariya confirmed that farmers were owed money by the GMB.
“The whole process is cumbersome. The grain is moved from collection points dotted around the country for onward transportation to the GMB depots. So after it reaches the depot it is also taking time for payments to be processed. Sometimes it takes two to three weeks before it goes to GMB. So it is no longer taking 72 hours to process payments as was promised,” Zakariya said.
“Most of the farmers are complaining. From what we are hearing it is a logistical issue. It is the issue of reconciling data from collection points and depots which is frustrating everyone. But GMB has assured that money is available,” he said.
Commercial Farmers’ Union president Andrew Pascoe said he was currently out of office and not up to date on progress of payments.
Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka this week told parliament that the government failed to pay cotton farmers outstanding balance from last season amounting to ZW$1,5 billion (US$17,8 million).