Zimbabwe is stepping up efforts to seize maize and other controlled products from farmers, an operation several critics say is likely to be “very counterproductive”.
The seizure of the grain was triggered by low deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at the time the Government wants to boost strategic reserves in light of the looming shortage of the country’s main staple.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, said about 5 000 tonnes of maize have been delivered to the GMB since April 1, when the marketing season began compared to over 55 000 tonnes the same period prior year.
Through Statutory Instruments on the controlled products (maize, soya beans, wheat and barley) all farmers or producers of such commodities are required to deliver the product to “any nearest” GMB depot.
Farmers intending to retain a portion of the produce for consumption or for commercial purposes shall seek an exemption.
In addition, no person is allowed to sell or buy maize or any controlled product other than GMB except registered contractors. Furthermore, all farmers, producers and contractors will require a permit to move the produce from one area to another. Trading in controlled products without GMB permission is an offense.
All retailers, millers, livestock businesses and other users of the controlled products are required to register with the GMB before engaging in such business.
The GMB will enforce the Statutory Instruments to ensure compliance. Those found in breach of the regulations risk prosecution, forfeiture of the commodities or fines three times the selling price of the products, according to the policy.
Despite widespread criticism of the policy, the GMB has intensified the raids after deploying dozens of officers in farming communities.
“We are implementing the policy in terms of the law,” GMB spokesperson Nickson Kanyemba said.
Several farmers who spoke to Business Weekly described the operations as “ill-informed and counterproductive.”
“Why are they complicating the situation for ordinary farmers, to seek permission to consume your maize, to feed you chickens or cattle. Why so complicating things,” a farmer from Beatrice, about 40 km south of Harare said in an interview.
Another farmer said instead of “dealing with the symptoms, the government should deal with the route cause.” “We bought our inputs; they are imposing the price which is very uncompetitive, way below the regional prices and expects deliveries.
“It defies logic. After all, there were no consultations,” the farmer said.
A tonne of maize is pegged at $75,000 or US$150, compared to a regional average of US$300, using the widely used black market exchange rate. In a bid to encourage maize deliveries, the Grain Marketing Board is paying US dollars for 30 percent of the maize delivered while the remainder is paid in the local currency. However, the incentive has not been attractive enough to boost maize deliveries.
On the looming shortage of maize, some analysts said the “panic” was contrary to claims by the Government that the country was food secure. According to the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report, Zimbabwe is expecting to harvest 1,2 million tonnes of maize, 43 percent lower than in 2021 due to erratic rains.
In 2021, Zimbabwe had a surplus of one million tonnes after harvesting 2,8 million tonnes.
Last week, the Government allowed private millers to import 400 000 tonnes of maize after the government suspended import duty on listed basic commodities.
On Wednesday, renowned economist, Professor Gift Mugano tweeted: (In) 2021 we were told that we had a bumper harvest of 2,7 million tonnes (maize) (1 million tonnes more than our national requirement). Today we are being told that we are running out of maize. Where is the surplus from 2021?” *Herald*