GRAIN Marketing Board (GMB)’s top managers were grilled by parliamentarians yesterday after it emerged that they had left over 61 000 metric tonnes of grain maize to rot at the parastatal’s silos and later sold it to livestock producers for a song.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
GMB acting general manager Lawrence Jasi and acting secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development ministry Joseph Gondo were taken to task over the issue by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Mufakose MP Paurina Mpariwa (MDC-T).
Jasi blamed the rot on the government’s failure to release funds for management of the strategic grain reserve and procurement of pesticides.
“In terms of grain strorage resources it is important to have proper empty bags and to cover grain during rains with tarpaulins – and if you take wrong moisture content during grading you may not be able to manage the grain and you have to apply fumigants at an appropriate time,” Jasi said.
“We have had a situation at GMB where provision of resources to manage grain is not given and you end up downgrading grain to the extent this period we downgraded 61 000 metric tonnes which we sold below market value.”
The committee was, however, not impressed with his excuses given that over one million people were reportedly in need of food aid following a poor summer farming season this year.
Jasi said they had now requested for storage resources and repair of silo infrastructure to avoid wastage, but MPs felt the GMB quality assurance department was not alert enough.
He said currently the strategic grain reserves were holding 118 000 metric tonnes, adding they were expecting the figure to go up since they were still receiving maize. On the issue of imported maize being cheaper than the GMB price of $390 per tonne, Gondo said it was due to the cost of production where inputs were expensive whereas in countries like Zambia they were subsidised.
But, MPs alleged there were some cash barons who swindled farmers buying maize at $180 and later selling it to GMB for $390.
The committee also grilled GMB over their accounts which they said were in shambles.
GMB deputy general manager (finance and administration) Joe Muzurura said the parastatal did not have a computerised accounting system.
Muzurura said GMB needed $1,5 million per month to manage the strategic grain reserves, adding workers were owed $17 million in salary arrears, with farmers owed $26 million from 2012, of which $9 million was the amount owed for the current season.