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Experts Downgrade Maize Harvest Estimates As Grain Sits Uncollected

Though the maize harvest season is well past and planting season is coming up fast, Zimbabwe's Grain Marketing Board state monopoly has still not collected thousands of tonnes of maize sitting in piles by the country's rural roadsides for lack of trucks and fuel. This and other factors are leading experts to revise down harvest estimates.

Agriculture Secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa told the parliamentary committee on agriculture this week that there remains much maize to be collected. He also told the committee that staff members of the GMB intelligence section had been dispatched in advance around the country to determine the actual collection situation.

The government has estimated the maize harvest at 1.35 million metric tonnes, but some experts say that it is not likely to exceed 700,000 tonnes.

Asked for figures on how much maize it has collected and how much is estimated to remain in the hands of producers, the Grain Marketing Board referred the request to the Agriculture Ministry, which did not respond to a faxed questionnaire. The GMB said recently that it has already collected 230,000 tonnes of maize.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Renson Gasela, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that official delays in collecting maize and paying farmers could lead farmers to reduce acreage planted in maize next season.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...