BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
GRAIN Marketing Board (GMB) depots in Hurungwe district are likely to become breeding grounds for the COVID-19 virus after several farmers disregarded lockdown restrictions in order to get farm inputs.
A tour of Mashonaland West province by NewsDay revealed that there was lack of social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitising of visitors at the GMB depots at a time the country is experiencing a spike in infections.
Hundreds of farmers spent several hours interacting without adhering to COVID-19 regulations.
Hurungwe district has five depots including Karoi, Mkwichi, under Chief Kazangarare, which is about 60km north of Karoi, Magunje under Chief Dendera about 35km west of Karoi and Vuti and Zvipani.
Farmers have been visiting these depots to collect top dressing fertilizer (Amonium Nitrate) and other inputs.
The president of the Tobacco Farmers Union, Believe Tevera said delays in the distribution of inputs was likely to expose farmers to the coronavirus.
“GMB should place measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, rather than risk the lives of farmers. They must decentralise the distribution of inputs to ward level so that farmers don’t spend hours gathered at depots,” Tevera said.
Olga Nhari, the chairperson of Women in Agriculture Union (WAU) said: “We need transparency, efficiency and professionalism in handling agribusiness as a nation. The delays and discord in the distribution of inputs is bad for the economy as it affects production. It is also a risk to the health of farmers as it exposes them to the virus at a time we need farmers to be at farms, maximising on production during this lockdown period.”
GMB chief executive officer Rockie Mutenha in a written response to NewsDay said it was imperative for the depots to remain open during the lockdown period as they were essential services.
“As a key sector in food and agriculture, all GMB depots remain open to conduct business for the convenience of our stakeholders,” Mutenha said.
GMB is still distributing inputs mainly under the two government programmes, Pfumvudza/Intwasa Presidential Input Scheme and Command Agriculture.
“As a result of the congestion, the GMB and CBZ Agro-Yield programme, we made arrangements to ensure that farmers collected their inputs from their nearest depots.
“We are urging farmers that are yet to collect inputs to do so at GMB depots nearest to them. This is with immediate effect,” Mutenha said, adding that this would decongest the depots.
The GMB has 87 depots countrywide.
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