GMB owes wheat farmers US$35m

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THE Grain Marketing Board (GMB) owes an estimated US$35 million to wheat farmers, amid fears that further delays may derail preparations for the forthcoming winter cropping season.

Payment delays were likely to be compounded by Zimbabwe’s recent introduction of a new currency, which has triggered a payment gridlock across markets.

The central bank introduced Zimbabwe gold (ZiG) last week on Friday. The ZiG notes and coins will come into circulation on April 30.

GMB, which is Zimbabwe’s grain buyer of last resort, is among many companies currently fine-tuning payment systems, as Zimbabwe migrates to the new currency, officials said.

Last season, the government set the maize and traditional grains producer prices at US$335 per tonne, with a split payment of US$200 in foreign currency plus US$135 payable in the local unit at the prevailing interbank rate.

GMB chief executive officer Edson Badarai told the Zimbabwe Independent that the parastatal was working on modalities to pay the farmers.

“GMB has fully paid for delivered summer crops (maize and traditional grains). GMB urges farmers whose payments have not reflected in their bank accounts to approach any nearest depot and have their query resolved within seven days,” he said.

“However, GMB owes wheat farmers US$34,9 million and efforts are being made to clear balances,” Badarai said.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Liam Philp said although all payments in the local unit were settled, GMB was still owing farmers US$34 million.

“I cannot tell you exactly (how much is owed by GMB) but from my understanding all our farmers, who delivered wheat to GMB directly, have received their ZWL payments but USD payments are still outstanding.

“The total amount owed is US$34 million and I cannot tell you how much of that is to our members,” he added.

GMB is currently paying US$390 for a tonne of maize and traditional grains.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a devastating impact of the El Niño-induced drought that has resulted in reduced yields and over 9 000 livestock deaths.

Government has declared the drought a disaster.

Up to US$2 billion will be required to address a looming food crisis.

The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe said the current price offered by GMB for grain was viable.

“As for the price, you would find US$360 and US$390, which were announced by the government, they are above the import parity prices. So, it means these are good prices,” he said.

“We encourage farmers to take advantage of that.” – ZimInd