Government to pay $840 million to grain farmers

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TREASURY is expected to pay farmers $840,45 million by year end for a record 2,15 million tonnes of grain delivered to the Grain Marketing Board, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.

This is Zimbabwe’s biggest harvest since 2000. Of the $840 million, Government has so far paid $600 million to farmers after delivering 1,6 million tonnes of maize to GMB. This comes after Treasury increased weekly disbursements to GMB to about $40 million to boost their planning in the current summer cropping season. Previously, farmers would go for months without getting payment. Minister Chinamasa recently told The Herald Business in a post budget interview that the country expects to deliver over 2,1 million grain to GMB and a sum of $840 million will be paid to make sure farmers’ plans remain on track.

“By year end we expect the GMB to receive around 2,15 million tonnes and a total of $840,45 million will be paid to that effect. As treasury, we have already paid an amount close to $600 million to cater for the deliveries that were made by farmers. We are paying farmers on time (five days after delivery) to ensure they have time to buy inputs and cater for their needs during the festive season,” said Minister Chinamasa.

He expects maize production to be around 2,2 million in 2017-2018 season and 2,5 million and 2,55 million in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president, Wonder Chabikwa said; “We commend the Government for timely paying the farmers but there is still a lot of work to be done as far as distribution of inputs is concerned especially the Command Inputs as some farmers under the programme are still to get basal fertiliser late alone top dressing fertiliser.

“We hope the authorities will move to catch the December 25 deadline.” GMB has also extended its payment to soya beans and other small grain crops like sorghum, rapoko, cowpeas, sunflower and groundnuts. The small grain farmers and soya bean farmers have been paid around $18 million and $15 million.

Government in 2015 pegged the maize price at $390 per tonne against the private buyers’ price of $360. Experts suggest that the country has saved over $200 million on its grain import bill due to success of the Command Agriculture programme. Some farmers are realising a good return per hectare due to favourable rains and availability of resources. There are some small-scale farmers getting seven tonnes per hectare which is a good sign to the Government and financiers of the programme. Given the $1,1 billion pledged by the banks this summer, the 2017-18 season may prove to be a good year again.