The Sunday Mail
The GOVERNMENT plans to spend more than US$275 million over the next three years to construct new Grain Marketing Board (GMB) silos, as well as renovate and modernise old ones countrywide to cater for increased output from agriculture.
There are proposals to build four 56 400-tonne silo complexes at the Mvurwi, Kwekwe, Timber Mills and Mhangura depots with support from Belarus. An upgrade and automation of existing silo plants in Banket and Lion’s Den is also being considered.
Under a separate facility, an additional four silo complexes of the same capacity will be constructed at the Masvingo, Lupane, Raffingora and Bindura depots.
Zimbabwe achieved a record wheat harvest of over 375 000 tonnes in 2022.
Grain output for the 2022-2023 cropping season is projected to rise to three million tonnes. While the capacity of the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) presently stands at 500 000 tonnes, the Government intends to raise it to 1,5 million tonnes.
Zimbabwe has 12 silo plant sites with a cumulative holding capacity of 751 000 tonnes.
GMB can also store bagged maize and other grains under canvas, as it has done in past seasons. Besides maize, there are high expectations of a huge harvest of traditional grains.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera told The Sunday Mail that an upward review of the SGR necessitates expansion of the country’s silos.
“As we march towards Vision 2030 agriculturally, with one bumper harvest after the other, silo storage expansion is a requirement. To achieve this level of storage capacity, GMB would need to partner financiers under government-to-government schemes to provide additional storage space of at least 750 000 tonnes,” he said.
“Through Government policy, which is conducive for direct foreign investment, good bilateral relations have brought more deals on board, which are now at an advanced stage of completion.”
Chief director responsible for agricultural engineering, mechanisation and soil conservation Engineer Edwin Zimunga said there are two partners that the Government is working with — Aftrade of Belarus and the Bühler/African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Project Concept.
“To date, Aftrade brought various technical teams to collaborate with local expertise to assess and carry out gap analysis on various GMB depots. The proposal covers construction of four 56 400-tonne silo complexes at the Mvurwi, Kwekwe, Timber Mills and Mhangura depots,” said Eng Zimunga.
The construction, he added, will include high-capacity grain driers; grading and grain conveyance systems; bagging-off equipment, laboratory, storage sheds and cleaners.
“In addition, an upgrade and automation of existing silo plants in Banket and Lions Den is included. The total budget costs are US$112 million under this phase. Implementation takes three years until commissioning,” he said.
To date, the Bühler/AfCFTA team has made four technical visits to GMB.
In the proposal already submitted to the ministry, the construction of four 56 400-tonne silo complexes is proposed at the Masvingo, Lupane, Raffingora and Bindura depots, with similar facilities as in the Belarus deal.
“In addition, upgrades and automation of existing silo plants in Chegutu and Concession are quoted. The total project cost is US$162 million under this phase. Implementation takes two-and-a-half years until commissioning.
“Should these two projects be concluded, we will add 451 200 tonnes to the GMB silo capacity at a cost of about US$275 million over a three-year project cycle period. This is the current Phase One towards fulfilment of the targeted 750 000 tonnes,” he said.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe national chairperson Mr Tafadzwa Musarara commended the silo expansion project.
“This project was long overdue. Inasmuch as we want to have enough food for our consumption and export, there is need for a massive expansion for reserves.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said: “Automation in agriculture speeds up processes. Manual work used to delay progress at these silo sites. The upgrades were long overdue.”