The Grain Marketing Board’s failure to pay farmers for farm produce delivered to its silos in Zimbabwe is affecting preparations for the 2015/2016 farming season with some farmers already dismissing the season as another failure.
With just a few weeks before the onset of the rains for the cropping season, farmers who spoke to Studio 7 said the GMB, which has the monopoly of buying grain from local farmers, has incapacitated them.
Sarah Mhindu, a Shurugwi farmer, said by now she would have dry planted some of her seeds if she had been paid by the state-owned entity.
Mhindu said she does not have money to buy agricultural inputs.
“I am not motivated anymore to send my grain to GMB just because I have not been given my money since last year. They are giving me a lot of reasons for not paying me. I don't have money to buy seed and fertilizer which is a very big problem yet they have my money from last year,” said Mhindu.
Resettled Chirumanzu farmer, Chipo Gandiwa, echoed the same sentiments, noting that the GMB's failure to pay farmers on time, coupled with climate change conditions, will result in a huge grain deficit in the country, leading to nationwide hunger.
“I walk long distances to visit the GMB but they are just telling us that the money is not there. I am very angry because I have no seeds and fertilizer for this year,” said Gandiwa.
Another farmer, Amon Mabikwa, said he is now even failing to make ends meet and even pay school fees for his children.
He said, “Some of us are full-time farmers and this is the money we use to buy inputs. We are compromised when we do not get paid. It does not make sense to keep on delivering our grain to GMB because it’s not paying. I struggled to raise exam fees for my kid and I am struggling to buy inputs.”
Agronomist Dennis Mbofana told Studio 7 that the GMB should have found alternative means of ensuring that farmers were paid in order to fully prepare for the 2015/2016 farming season.
He said, “It is a sad situation what is being done by the GMB because as you can appreciate farmers are supposed to be preparing for the 2015/2016 season and most of the farmers cannot because the GMB has failed to pay them. If they do not have money, they should have an alternative of giving them seed or fertilize to prepare for the season.”
Mbofana further explained that the country would not be able to produce enough for the nation if GMB continues to short-change them.
“Another thing that has to be factored is the issue of climate change and the earlier they plant, the better and the delay may lead to hunger.”
Earlier this month, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Development Minister Joseph Made said the government had started mobilizing resources to pay the farmers.
He was quoted by the state-controlled media as saying, “… the Ministry of Finance working together with the Reserve Bank are already mobilizing resources for this week so that we start paying maize and small grain that has already been delivered to the GMB.”
But farmers are still to receive their payments despite the promises and with a plummeting economy, there are no indications that anything is being done to deal with their plight.
The GMB owes farmers about $15 million for grain delivered during the 2014/15 agricultural season
According to the World Food Programme, Zimbabwe produced much less maize in the 2014/15 agricultural season compared to the previous year due to drought, which was particularly severe in the south of the country.
A report published in July 2015 by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, indicated that some 1.5 million people - 16 percent of the rural population - will have insufficient means to meet their minimum food needs during the 2015,2016 lean season.
Farmers said the hunger situation in the country is not likely to improve anytime soon as the GMB fails to meet its financial obligations.