With Zimbabwe's maize harvest badly lagging, Harare has decided to send army units into the countryside to help the Grain Marketing Board collect thousands of tonnes of grain piled up by roadsides for weeks for lack of fuel and trucks to collect it.
But critics suspect the army will also be used to intimidate farmers to surrender their grain, leaving them with little to carry them to the next harvest.
Internet news service Zimonline quotes Agriculture Minister Joseph Made as saying the army won't make war on farmers – but soldiers will use force if necessary..
A GMB spokeswoman said no violence is expected, and that the state grain monopoly is merely taking the maize for safekeeping. She said the GMB will pay cash for stocks under three tonnes, while farmers selling larger amounts will receive checks.
Agriculture spokesman Seiso Moyo of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri he sees no need for armed force to bring in maize - and the price to be paid producers is far under fair value.