Why Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped regime wants famers to sell “command” maize through the GMB

Maize is no longer a controlled product but the government would like famers who benefitted under the Command Agriculture programme to sell their maize through the Grain Marketing Board so that it can deduct money for the inputs they were provided.

This is absolutely essential because the money that was used to buy inputs was not from the government but from the private sector and must be paid back, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Paddy Zhanda told the Senate.

“From a government point of view, I think for this Command Agriculture to go ahead because government borrowed money; this scheme was not financed by government, it was financed by money from the private sector and that money has to go back.  Therefore, it is prudent and important that the money must be paid back in order for the programme to go ahead for the next seasons to come,” he said.

“We would wish and want the programme to continue in the years to come but if we allow the side marketing of that crop and avoid paying back from where we got the money, I really do not know what this House will stand for.”

Q & A

HON. SEN. MARAVA:  Thank you Mr. President.  My question goes to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture (Livestock), Hon. Zhanda.  We are heading for a bumper harvest in this country and we thank God for that.  However, I have come across information that Government is intending to bar private millers from buying maize from producers directly.  You are on record in this House encouraging that this country and economy or the market is going to be on a ‘free buyer – free seller’, ‘willing buyer – willing seller’ basis, which was a good thing.  Can you tell the nation why the Government is intending to run away from that position which I think is very advantageous to the population?

THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE (LIVESTOCK) (HON. ZHANDA):  Thank you Mr. President.  I want to thank the Hon. Senator for the question.  Let me also clarify probably what I said and what I meant.  Maize is no longer a controlled commodity; it was de-controlled.  When Government decontrols a commodity, it means that Government is not only the buyer.  Anybody can buy because it is legal for anybody to buy maize.  That is what I meant.

However, I did say that Government offers $390, a price that you cannot see anywhere, as a way of incentivising farmers to produce what can be adequate to us as a country and that is what has happened.  I am happy that you also see the way we have seen it as Government that the Command Programme has produced results.  I am not talking on whether it is $4 million, $3 million or whatever it is but we are on the right track in terms of self-sufficiency or producing what is required for us.

I think you are aware that the Command Agriculture Scheme is not meant for free.  It is on a full recovery basis and the only way as Government we can recover what we have advanced to farmers is to encourage them to market their produce through GMB.  Moreover, that is where they are paid more than anybody and one would be surprised why one would opt to sell it through a private buyer who will obviously offer them less.  In my view, if you find a farmer who wants to sell to a private buyer who offers them less, it means obviously he is trying to circumvent paying what he owes or has been advanced under the Command Agriculture.

Government has considered that obviously because of the $390, which might be perceived to be a bit higher, will encourage millers and stock feed manufacturers to buy from GMB at import parity, which means it would be probably less than $390.  So, the import parity figure will be a figure that has to be agreed.  Therefore, I do not see anything wrong with that.

One would have also wanted to encourage that this is why we had a demise of the cotton sector in this country where COTTCO was the only financier of the growing of cotton.  Other ginneries came and wanted to buy what they have not invested in.  At the end of the day, that is why you saw cotton was no longer being grown by other farmers because of side marketing.  Therefore, all those private companies as well, one would think that they should also not come at the middle of the value chain.  They must start at the beginning by wanting to cause maize to be grown on their behalf and not to come and buy what has been financed by others.

From a Government point of view, I think for this Command Agriculture to go ahead because Government borrowed money; this scheme was not financed by Government, it was financed by money from the private sector and that money has to go back.  Therefore, it is prudent and important that the money must be paid back in order for the programme to go ahead for the next seasons to come.  I thank you.

HON. SEN. MARAVA:  I hear you Hon. Minister and I thank you for agreeing that Government has changed goal posts because we were looking at the same buyer.  Remember our country is made up of 70% of rural people, most of whom are not on the Command Agriculture Scheme.  We expect also those people to benefit by selling directly through the ‘willing buyer – willing seller’ scheme which is very profitable to everybody and it is quicker.  Hon. Minister, I think you should look into it again.  How about re-looking into that so that most of our people who will benefit from selling to private people can continue benefiting – [AN HON. MEMBER:  Inaudible interjections.] –  Can you protect me.  There is a lot of disturbances from that corner. I think it is Hon. somebody there.

THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  It is no longer a question, you are now…

HON. SEN. MARAVA: Yes, coming from you it is alright but not from him.

HON. ZHANDA:  I think I did explain the reasons very well.  As I said, if a commodity is deregulated, Government is not saying it is law but is encouraging people to market their produce through GMB, for the purposes that I have explained.  As I also alluded to, if you look at the record this past rainy season, every farmer was paid within a specified period, the US$390.  Therefore, I do not think it is in the interest of this House, given the example that I have given you on cotton and the same with maize as well as alluding to what you have actually acknowledged that this Command Agriculture has produced results, which are for the benefit of this country.  So, we would wish and want the programme to continue in the years to come but if we allow the side marketing of that crop and avoid paying back from where we got the money, I really do not know what this House will stand for.  I thank you. – The Insider

 

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