FINANCE and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa is under pressure to raise $52,4 million owed to farmers in grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for the 2013/14 farming season.
The parastatal’s failure to pay farmers on time is threatening to cripple this year’s agricultural season with farmers struggling to acquire inputs on time.
The government admitted in a statement on Sunday that it was struggling to clear its debt to farmers citing liquidity constraints but assured farmers that they will be paid all their outstanding money.
“Given the objective of ensuring food security, the government remains a key player in the purchasing and storage of grain through the GMB and as such, the government priorities the payment to farmers for grain deliveries made to the GMB,” the Ministry of Finance said.
“While it is ideal that farmers get their payments timeously for their various needs including farming operations, the prevailing liquidity challenges have resulted in government falling behind in payments.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmer’s Union president Wonder Chabikwa said farmers are facing a difficult cropping season due to lack of funds following GMB’s failure to pay for grain that they delivered.
“About half our farming community haven’t been paid the deliveries from last season by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) although the government assured us that we’ll have the money by December 31, 2014,” said Chabikwa.
Chinamasa reported that as at December 19 last year, grain deliveries by farmers to the GMB under the 2014/15 grain marketing season amounted to 255,519 tonnes valued at $101,8 million.
“To date, the government has disbursed $57,6 million to GMB for payment to farmers for the grain delivered during the previous season. Of the $57,6 million paid by the government, $51,5 million was raised through the issuance of Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) bills with the balance being paid from fiscal resources.
“The government’s outstanding obligations to farmers for grain deliveries now stand at $52, 4 million,” read the statement.
“The government, in collaboration with AMA and CBZ, has issued out another lot of AMA bills targeting mobilisation of $50 million. However, these resources will not come at once but over time.
“Already, against this issuance, $3 million has been raised towards liquidation of the outstanding amount to farmers.”
Chinamasa pledged government’s commitment to pay farmers as soon as additional resources become available.
Delays in payment has seen an increase of unscrupulous maize buyers in Matabeleland North, for instance, who target the desperate farmers and offer low prices for maize.