GOVERNMENT has been accused of short-changing wheat farmers and leaving them at the mercy of unscrupulous millers and contractors who are now purchasing wheat below the stipulated price of US$620 per tonne for the ordinary grade.
Initially, farmers had been promised that they would deliver their wheat to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at US$620 per tonne.
But NewsDay Farming is reliably informed that GMB has only offered storage facilities to the wheat farmers.
Farmers who spoke to NewsDay Farming said millers and contractors are now offering them between US$450 and US$500 per tonne.
“Government said the producer must be paid US$620, but it is only on paper. GMB said it is not buying any wheat and the millers are offering way below the stipulated prices. The bumper harvest that we experienced is now a curse and most farmers have vowed not to plant wheat again next year,” a farmer, who refused to be named, said.
A representative from one of the millers’ associations said government just announced the producer price without consulting, hence the price disparities.
“The US$500 is the indicative price. The problem with our government is that it just announces the price without consulting. Sometimes it becomes cheaper to import wheat of high quality than buying it locally,” the representative said.
“The other thing is that most of the wheat farmers are contracted. They have a prior arrangement with their contractors which stipulates the amount of money they are getting paid.”
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GMB spokesperson Joseph Katete had, at the time of going to print, not responded to questions sent to him.
Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka and his secretary John Bhasera were not reachable for comment.
However, speaking during a post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Masuka said Zimbabwe wheat stocks at GMB provided cover for the next eight months.
“Wheat stocks at GMB stand at 174 072 tonnes, and this will provide eight months’ cover at a consumption rate of 21 000 tonnes per month. The cumulative harvested area of the 2022 winter wheat crop stands at 72 663 hectares, translating to 92% of the planted area. The total production now stands at 326 166 tonnes of wheat, at an average yield of 4,4 tonnes per hectare,” Masuka said.
The wheat farmers’ woes have been worsened by the current power outages, which affected production.
In June this year, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management held a public hearing on the operations of Zesa and was told that the winter wheat crop was a complete write-off in some parts of the country because Zesa had failed to supply power.
Some of the wheat farmers also lost sizeable tonnages to the recent rains which fell when their crop was yet to be harvested.