The success of the Command Agriculture Programme will be measured by the grain output which is being reported to be in excess of 2 million tonnes, amid calls for the government to expand the existing silos, while banning the importation of mealie-meal to ensure the local value chain system fully benefits.
Farmers in Matabeleland South Province are expected to deliver about 50 percent of the province’s total produce harvested during the 2016-17 farming season to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), a feat that has not been achieved over the past couple of years.
It is not common for communal farmers in the dry region of Matabeleland South to produce cereals for both household consumption as well as for the national granary but thanks to the good rains received last summer season and the Command Agriculture Programme.
A second assessment of the crop situation in the province projected that the province will harvest about 70 000 tonnes of grain, 11 403 tonnes of sorghum and 9 820 tonnes of pellmillet, an indication of a good farming season, according to the Provincial Agritex Officer, Mr Masawuso Mawocha.
In Mashonaland West Province, the Banket Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot has so far received 60 500 metric tonnes of grain, surpassing last year’s deliveries by three folds with logistics activated to transfer excess grain to Norton and Murehwa, Mashonaland East province where there is less concentration of farming activities.
“Deliveries have not yet reached peak point, and the depot is already transferring some of the grain received to Norton and Murehwa depots where there is no concentration of farming activities in order to create more space for more deliveries,” Banket GMB Depot Manager, Ms Abigail Muziti revealed.
The holding capacity for Banket GMB depot is 96 000 tonnes, with silos accommodating 84000, while the remainder can be stored in ware house sheds and hard steel starks.
In Masvingo, the grain deliveries are on course with farmers hopeful that they will be paid their dues within the promised timeframe of two weeks after delivery.
When the ZBC News visited the depot, farmers were in queues as the depot personnel checked the maize moisture content.
Mornings are particularly busy with the traffic residing mostly as the day progresses.
The farmers expressed satisfaction with the processes at the depot.
In Bulawayo, the government indicated that GMB silos are almost full.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made told a Zanu PF inter-district conference that the silos at the depot are almost full as government wants it to store grain for export purposes.
The Bulawayo depot, which is the biggest in the Matabeleland region carries up to 75 000 metric tonnes.
For Bulawayo, most farmers have also not had problems of their grain being turned away due to high moist content.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Land and Agriculture, Cde Christopher Chitindi said there is need for the expansion of the carrying capacity considering that more grain will keep coming in the next seasons.
With this in sight, the milling industry and other sectors under the maize value-chain are gearing up for brisk business.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe Chairman, Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said they have already contributed US$20 million for the purchase of grain and indicated their readiness to meet the market demands.
Stakeholders said after a government ban on grain imports, the ban should extend to mealie meal imports, and that excess grain should be exported to raise foreign exchange.