Maize farmers succumb to private buyers

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MAIZE farmers have resorted to selling their crop to private buyers who are offering lower prices than the Grain Marketing Board, The Patriot has established. The cash-on-delivery terms by private buyers have induced scores of farmers into bypassing the grain parastatal. Several farmers said they were shying away from the GMB because of the prompt payments made by the independent buyers. They are offering about US$180 per tonne while the GMB is paying US$285 per tonne, but farmers say they were left with no option but to sell their produce to get ready cash. Sinodia Zvomuya, a communal farmer from Mubaira, said she had sold her crop to an independent buyer as she needed cash urgently. She said she would sell the surplus to the GMB. “I sold my crop to National Foods because I wanted to pay examination fees for my daughter who is writing her O-Level exams. Were it not for that I would have sold it to the GMB,” said Zvomuya. “However, I have reserved another tonne for the GMB so that I will be able to buy inputs at subsdised prices.” Ironically, National Foods sold a 50kg bag of fertiliser for US$30 while GMB sold the same quantity at half that price. A hectare of maize needs about 300kg of basal application and 300kg of top dressing fertiliser. At US$30 per 50kg bag, a farmer needs about US$360 for fertiliser only, excluding seed, pesticide, labour and tillage costs. Depending on the rainfall pattern, a hectare can produce a minimum of six tonnes of maize. Due to the erratic rains this year, most farmers failed to produce more than five tonnes per hectare. An Agritex extension officer in Mhondoro who refused to be named warned farmers about selling their maize at low prices saying some of them could fail to purchase inputs for the next season. He said most of the farmers were not buying inputs, but going for beer binges and shopping sprees. “We are not prescribing how each farmer should spend his or her money, but a clever farmer buys inputs before the prices go up as the season draws nearer,” he said. Earlier this month, the GMB said it had managed to clear all the maize payment arrears accrued last year while adjustments would be made for maize delivered since April this year.

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