Privatise GMB say irate farmers

Irate farmers, fuming over perennial non-payment of their proceeds by the Grain Marketing Board, have called upon government to admit that the parastatal has failed and to privatise it.

The farmers, drawn from all parts of the province, said this in separate interviews on the side-lines of a recent seminar organised by the Midlands Show Society, dubbed “Getting Midlands back to business.”

Since 2008, GMB has continuously failed to timeously pay farmers for their produce. At present it owes farmers $49 million for grain delivered during the 2013-14 marketing season. Because most of the farmers who sold their produce to GMB are yet to be paid, they were unable to plough for the current season. In Midlands alone, there is a deficit of 93 000 metric tonnes of cereals.

“What is clear is that GMB has failed the nation. The parastatal is gradually drawing us into a food disaster. They collect produce from farmers and fail to pay them year in year out. In the end, no one is going back to the farm and that points at starvation. Government must now ensure that GMB is given to a private player,” said Tirivavi Magagula, a commercial farmer from Lower Gweru.

Rosemary Mavhuto, another A2 farmer from Sherwood, Kwekwe, said farmers themselves have the capacity to run GMB privately led by the Commercial Farmers Union. “If government says we are now surrendering GMB to the farmer’s body like CFU so that they operate it, the development will turn around the institution. Those running it will be having farmers at heart while on the other hand ensuring food security for the nation,” she said.

Zanu (PF)’s Zvishavane MP, John Holder, who also attended the event, said it would be difficult for GMB to restore confidence to farmers, hence the need for a bold strategy to revamp the institution.

“How is the GMB (if not privatised) going to gain confidence from farmers after the past experiences?” he asked.

Other farmers said it was embarrassing that Zimbabwe was importing maize from countries like Malawi when it used to be the bread-basket of Southern Africa.

“Sometimes people blame the failure to have food security on the evicted commercial farmers – but the truth is that those few remaining together with locals can actually contribute significantly if GMB is run properly. So we should just privatise GMB,” said Admire Qobani, a small–scale farmer.

Responding on the matter, Peter Chamisa, the provincial Agritex officer, who represented Agriculture Minister Joseph Made at the event, said it was not possible for GMB to be privatised.

“The role of GMB is to keep strategic grain reserves for the country in order to prepare for an eventuality of drought. It is the buyer of last resort for farmers. This means if farmers wish to sell their produce elsewhere, they can do so and stop complaining when they choose on their own to sell to GMB. The parastatal is a strategic entity and so it cannot be privatised,” he said.

Post published in: Agriculture

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