Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has reiterated that private merchants will not be allowed to buy maize from farmers this marketing season as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) will be the sole buyer of the commodity.
Contractors are, however, allowed to buy from their contracted growers.
In a statement, AMA announced that the suspension of the private buyers from buying maize from farmers was still operational.
“AMA wishes to advise stakeholders that maize purchase from farmers by private merchants remains suspended until further notice,” said AMA.
“Accordingly, only GMB and registered licensed contractors who financed production are allowed to purchase maize from farmers. Licensed contractors are allowed to purchase maize only from their contracted farmers.”
According to AMA, it is an offence to violate marketing regulations and to trade without a valid licence.
“This is in accordance with the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Authority Act CAP 18:24; Statutory Instrument 140 of 2013,” said AMA.
Last year, Government barred millers from buying maize directly from farmers.
The move was meant to protect farmers from private buyers, who fleeced them by offering unviable prices and later sell the grain to the GMB at a profit.
The farmers said they were sometimes forced to sell their grain to private traders who offered cash, while they were having challenges delivering their grain to the GMB because of transportation costs.
AMA had to establish collection points near farmers to ensure they marketed their produce without challenges.
GMB is buying maize from farmers at a producer price of $390 per tonne.
The price, which has been described by other stakeholders as unviable as it is way above the regional prices, is meant to cushion farmers from high production costs and also incentivise them to produce the crop and ensure national food security. Maize production has been on the increase because of Government support through input programmes such as Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
Last season, farmers delivered 1,5 million tonnes of maize to the GMB depots and the payment system had improved from the past years where farmers would wait for months before they received their money.
Government recently commended GMB’s performance in the 2017 marketing season, as it managed to pay farmers on time and store huge amounts of grain.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri has said GMB had worked hard during the past marketing season in ensuring the delivered maize was safely stored.
“Government is impressed by the GMB,” he said.
“It is now settled with a surplus of notable magnitude and is capable to handle the 1,2 million tonnes delivered by farmers valued at $487 million during the 2017 marketing season.
“Surprisingly, the delays in paying farmers never went beyond three working weeks. In a few weeks, we will start receiving more maize and I guess we will be paying early as is done with tobacco.”