The clash between Agriculture minister Joseph Made and his deputy Paddy Zhanda over the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s lack of capacity to buy this year’s maize crop is grand standing at its best.
It is also indicative of the poor state of the all-important agriculture sector.
Zimbabweans are not surprised by Made’s rants because since his initial appointment 14 years ago, he has always (mis)informed the country by projecting bumper harvests year-in-year-out, but without consequences to him. Now, because he has capable deputies, he’s fighting for space.
Made cannot have his cake and eat it too. No doubt he has successfully misled President Robert Mugabe over successive bumper harvests that never came to fruition and still survived in his job by blaming sanctions. One wonders whether Made is himself a successful farmer or not.
It is on record that Zhanda is a renowned crop and livestock farmer as well as a businessman of repute hence Zimbabweans would agree with his assessment regarding this year’s harvests.
Zhanda’s error was that he chose to tell the truth last week breaking ranks with Made, saying: “GMB is a buyer of last resort and you do not have to sell your maize to GMB if there are people who can buy that maize. I am sure you are aware that there are some difficulties in terms of resources and, therefore, if you want to sell to GMB because GMB pays you better than any other buyer, then you must also be prepared to wait in the queue.”
While Made charged at a Press conference in Harare on Monday that Zhanda’s remarks in the National Assembly last week were erroneous, the truth of the matter is that GMB still owes thousands of farmers payments for grain supplied in the past. What benefit does it have for a farmer to deliver their crop and then fail to get payment for their sweat?
Besides, what Zhanda meant was that Made’s GMB-mandated price of $390 per tonne is actually self-defeating, populist and inappropriate. Because to cover its cost, the GMB will have to offer the same maize to millers at a higher price of probably over $400 per tonne.
Needless to say, the millers will not buy and the maize will go to waste in the GMB’s crumbling infrastructure.
The longer the stock stays unsold the greater the carrying costs and the higher the losses. So, Zhanda is right after all that the GMB should be the buyer of last resort.
It appears that Made is still hooked on subsidies and his previous mistakes. Couldn’t it be the appropriate time for Mugabe to retire Made for the growth of the agriculture sector, which caters for 80% of the country’s population and 40% of the gross domestic product?
Yes, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and the Agricultural Marketing Authority have been tasked by Cabinet to mobilise financial resources to pay farmers for maize, but the prospects are gloomy — that money is not there.
The failure by GMB to pay farmers on time has in the past disrupted their agricultural activities.
Yet, from his tone, it appears Made has clearly failed to read the national mood. The reason perhaps Mugabe appointed two deputies in his ministry was to ensure that they stimulate the all-important sector.
Cde Made, agriculture is everybody’s business, so you must wise up. Clearly, if the strategic reserve requires 500 000 metric tonnes and the projected assessments show that farmers could produce up to 800 000 metric tonnes, simple math shows there won’t be a bumper harvest. Actually, the country would need grain imports to supplement grain deliveries.
Made has botched up. What can one say when only 5 400 metric tonnes out of the projected 800 000 has been delivered to GMB.
Isn’t this a reflection that GMB is in a sorry state and that Made has failed? Made should wise up and resign to save the agriculture sector!