A large number of maize farmers might fail to grow the crop profitably next season following indications that private millers have slashed the growers’ earnings by reducing the producer price from US$310 per tonne to US$270.
At the onset of the marketing season, Government proposed US$390 per tonne while the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said it was prepared to pay at least US$310 and pledged not to disadvantage farmers.
However, farmers now allege that the millers have connived to reduce the producer price. It is understood some frustrated farmers have resorted to selling their grain for as little as US$200 per tonne.
GMAZ chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the country.
Contacted for comment last week, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for crops and irrigation development Dr Davis Marapira referred all queries to the minister, Dr Joseph Made.
Dr Made was, however, unreachable on his mobile phone while his secretary said he was out of office.
According to the farmers, a lot of money was being spent on transportation as most Harare-based millers were demanding deliveries to their companies.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) second vice president Mr Berean Mukwende said major buyers were not offering anything above US$290 per tonne.
Mr Mukwende said the millers were taking advantage of desperate farmers who were shunning the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), which, despite offering the highest price of US$390 per tonne, is struggling to pay.
“GMAZ members should be competing; announcing a (uniform) price is not proper. This clearly shows there is a price cartel where millers are agreeing on prices instead of bidding.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said Government should intervene urgently.
“The situation is really bad. We are pleading with Government to come to our rescue and consider introducing a Statutory Instrument since the prevailing prices might force farmers to opt for other crops next season.”
This year, the country is expecting to harvest over 1, 4 million metric tonnes of maize.
Government released US$2, 1 million to the GMB to pay farmers who delivered grain last month.
The parastatal still owes farmers US$1, 7 million from last year’s deliveries.
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