Unions slate GMB monopoly

Chris Mahove

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB)’s monopoly as the sole buyer of controlled farm produce, although it helps force farmers to honor their obligations to financiers, might compromise the viability of free-taker farmers, farmers’ unions have warned.

Speaking in separate interviews, farmers’ unions said while the banning of side marketing of controlled crops helped bring some order, the prices offered by the GMB sometimes made it difficult for farmers to thrive.

The GMB last week issued a statement advising farmers that the statutory instruments put in place by government to curb side marketing of maize, soya-beans and wheat were still in force and would be used to deal with individuals found on the wrong side of the law.

It those found in breach of the regulations risked prosecution, forfeiture of the grains and a fine three times the selling price of the controlled product.

The three products, the GMB said, were controlled under Statutory Instrument 145 – Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Maize) Regulations, 2019, Statutory Instrument 97 – Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Soya Beans) Regulations, 2021 and Statutory Instrument 188 – Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Wheat and Barley) Regulations, 2021.

“All farmers or producers of controlled products are required to deliver the product to any nearest GMB depot within 14 days of harvesting. Farmers/producers who intend to retain a portion of the product shall apply for exemption from GMB,” the GMB said in a statement.

The grain marketing and trading company said all farmers, producers and contractors were required to apply for a movement permit where grains were being moved from one area to the other, adding that trading in controlled products (buying or selling) without authority of the GMB was an offence.

“All storers, millers, stock feeders and any other users of controlled products are required to register with the GMB before engaging in such business,”

But Zimbabwe Integrated Commercial Farmers Union (ZICFU) President Mwaiwepi Jiti in as much as it was good to control the produce, farmers were worried with the prices offered by the GMB.

“Farmers have challenges when it comes to the producer price pegged by the government as grains are paid for in RTGS but when farmers buy inputs, they are charged in USD pegged at the parallel market rate. This makes the monopoly by GMB unfavorable to farmers as they also take time to pay farmers for their produce; and when they want to buy they are charged in RTGS at parallel market rates, compromising farmers’ buying power,” she said.

Jiti said the movement of the controlled products outside the purview of the GMB would be difficult to stop because there were other farmers who lived in towns and would need to transport their grains to towns where they lived for consumption.

She said farmers using free-funds for production should be exempted from the controls.

“I would propose the movement of up to a tonne so as to relieve farmers who are town dwellers for consumption. I also propose liberalization of off takers as this will assist farmers to get value for their crops as the use of many players encourages competition and hence better prices for the farmers,” she said.

Shadreck Makombe, the Commercial Farmers Union President, said although the controls were, to some extent, as a result of some undisciplined farmers who avoided their financiers when marketing their produce, they were punitive to free-lance farmers.

“However, the SI’s become sort of punitive on other freelance farmers who have got their free monies as they are also caught up in the dragnet, in that you cannot sell as much as you have got. Your money and your produce are independent of any financer you also become a victim because this thing now is regulated.

 Makombe, however, said it was important for farmers to honor their obligations to financiers and lenders, noting that side-marketing increased the number of defaulters.

“If we don’t honor our obligations, we are not going to get money and now unfortunately when people start side marketing; it means it’s an indiscipline- and the rate of defaulters will be high then at the end of the day the money becomes expensive and scarce.

“So if us as farmers were not so undisciplined I don’t think we would need such statutory instruments. So it’s that situation that which I can say the black spot then but generally its enforcing farmers who would be abusing the monies which they would have been given; and if I am to talk as a leader, we wouldn’t encourage such wayward behavior. Side marketing is not good especially when you have been given money. You have to honor your obligation,” he said.

He said farmers needed to understand that those who invest in them would also want to reap some benefits at the end of the day.

Last year, the GMB partnered with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in operation to curb side marketing.

As at August last year, the GMB had received 792 325 tonnes of maize, 11 769 tonnes of soya bean and 81 755 tonnes of traditional grains from farmers across the country.

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