SCORES of unpaid farmers from Manicaland Province who sold their maize to the Grain Marketing Board last year yesterday stormed the parastatal’s Mutare depot demanding their grain back.
BY CLAYTON MASEKESA
The angry farmers said GMB’s failure to pay them had impacted negatively on their operations since some of them failed to access finance to fund farming activities.
The demonstration came amid reports that the GMB owes farmers $49 million for grain delivered during the 2013-14 marketing season, with a severe drought looming this season.
“I am here to demand back my maize so that I can sell it to private players who pay instant cash. I cannot wait any longer,” said Jack Dirwai, a small-scale farmer.
“Government cannot expect farmers to survive when it is not paying at all after going through the production chain that is hamstrung,” he added.
Emily Gurajena, another small-scale farmer, said demand of maize was high and GMB delays had become an inconvenience.
“I do not have any option, but to look for better buyers,” she charged.
“Now that there is drought, there are so many people who will require the maize, so I am demanding my grain back because the GMB has failed to pay me.”
Gurajana said it was disturbing that farmers were not treated with respect by the government.
“Why is it that maize farmers in Zimbabwe are always treated with contempt?
“If we talk of food security in Zimbabwe, we are talking of maize, which means the pricing model should be attractive,” she said.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made yesterday said his office had received similar complaints from unpaid farmers who wanted their maize back.
“Yes, there is an outcry. The small-scale farmers are saying GMB give us the grain back,” he said.
“But you know things do not work that way, the Finance minister (Patrick Chinamasa) is trying to mobilise resources.
“As you know, when a season is good, farmers tend to think that the following season will also be good,” Made added.
“Many farmers had sold their 2013-14 produce thinking this season was going to be good. Those who had sold to GMB and have not been paid, especially small-scale farmers across the country, are now demanding their grain back. ”
Government says it will import 700 000 tonnes of maize this year after half of the 2014-15 season maize crop was written off due to poor rainfall.