The position taken by the government to curb the alleged rot at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) provides a glimmer of hope to farmers who were losing out to unscrupulous merchants.
A statement issued by cabinet has warned of punitive measures against of unlicensed grain merchants who were cashing in on farmers.
Like previous marketing seasons, this year’s selling season was inundated with complaints by farmers of unfair business practices allegedly at the hands of some GMB officials with issues around moisture content taking centre stage.
While this seemed to be a logical explanation given that the 2016-2017 rainfall season was a bit longer compared to previous years, it is alleged that some officials at the grain purchasing parastatal took this as an opportunity to exploit the farmers.
There are revelations that payments for September deliveries were already completed those for August deliveries are still sitting in the firm’s accounts department.
Equally worrying for cabinet is that the grain collected at GMB satellite points has not been collected.
Most farmers in the country have recorded impressive grain output from the 2016-2017 summer cropping season, but a sizeable number of farmers have fallen prey to side marketers who were offering low prices compared to the gazetted price of 390 dollars per tonne.
Side marketing is a problem that has affected the country’s agriculture sector every season as similar problems were experienced in the marketing of cash crops like cotton and tobacco.
For farmers, the strong stance by the government to stamp out illegal activities at the GMB is the right tone needed to protect an industry that has the potential to transform the country’s economic fortunes.