THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation has urged government to urgently release the $7,6 million required to rehabilitate the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s dilapidated grain silos.
VENERANDA LANGA SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
In a report tabled in the National Assembly last week, committee chairman Mbire MP David Butau (Zanu PF) said: “The committee noted that the current status of silos was worrisome, although
the committee was adequately guaranteed that there was adequate space to store the grains, the damaged silos are a cause for concern.
“Maintenance and repair of silos should be prioritised as a matter of urgency and, as such, the committee recommends that the Ministry of Finance avail funds to the tune of $7,6 million to allow a Chinese company — AVIC — to kick-start the repairs.”
The committee also revealed that Lands and Rural Resettlement secretary Ringson Chitsiko had claimed in earlier interviews that maintenance of grain silos was government responsibility.
Butau added: “The committee was informed that the current summer cropping season was characterised by adequate rainfall.
“As such, a bumper harvest was being expected of 1,6 to 1,8 million metric tonnes of grain.
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“However, government’s capacity to buy the maize was constrained due to lack of funding.
“Treasury allocated $94,7 million for the purchase of the 2013/2014 summer crop maize, which is not enough.
“An additional $310 million was being expected to be raised from the private sector to complement government efforts.”
The committee said it had noted with concern that the GMB still owed money to farmers and transporters from previous seasons and said failure to pay farmers and other service providers was detrimental to food security and national development.
Members of the committee urged recapitalisation of Agribank to the tune of $50 million to ensure food security.
The committee also urged the Agricultural Marketing Authority to announce floor prices of maize and other grains on time as late announcements affected planning by farmers, adding that negotiations regarding the 99-year leases for AI and A2 farmers should be finalised urgently to help farmers to access bank loans using the document as collateral security.