The government has instructed the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to start procuring more grain bags and tarpoline used for the preservation of grain as the amount of grain being delivered to the GMB silos especially in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West is increasing.
As the country approaches the main harvesting period which begins end of July into September, indications on the ground are showing signs of a bumper harvest.
A visit to the GMB Norton silos with a capacity to hold 56 000 tonnes of grain and the Aspindale GMB silos showed that maize deliveries are increasing as the moisture content in the grain has reached acceptable levels.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made said the first major maize deliveries are coming from farmers who benefitted under the special maize for import substitution programme because they planted earlier using irrigation.
Dr Made added that farmers are delivering in excess of 15 000 metric tonnes per week and those who benefitted under the command agriculture programme are being recorded accordingly.
Some of the farmers who were waiting to deliver their grain at the GMB silo commended the government’s special maize programme while others felt the GMB depots must have made adequate preparations like buying generators in case of power failures.
Annually, Zimbabwe needs about 1.8 million metric tonnes for consumption, including small grains such as millet and sorghum.
Moisture content challenge
Issues of high grain moisture content continue to nag farmers in the delivery of grain to GMB depots as there is a shortage of driers.
The farmers continue to raise alarm over GMB officials who persistently turn them away, citing that their grain has high moisture content.
The GMB requires grain to have a moisture content of 12,5 and below so that the grain can be stored properly in silos.
Some farmers said the long distances to get to GMB depots to deliver their produce and to collect empty bags which sometimes are not readily available remain a cause for concern.
Apart from this, bogus dealers, shortage of empty bags and harvesters are other threats to the Command Agriculture Programme.
The first phase of command agriculture was characterised with planning challenges which also worked against with maximum production.
While thousands of farmers battle to secure combine harvesters to remove their crop, outbreaks of veld fires is another headache causing sleepless nights to the farmer and the nation at large.
The brighter side
Despite the highlighted challenges, grain delivery to GMB depots in Mashonaland Central province is progressing well.
Delivery in the province is actually picking up as more farmers complete harvesting their crop.
A visit to the GMB Concession depot revealed a hive of activity as farmers with the early planted crop and those with access to grain driers were busy delivering their grain.
Some came to the depot to test the moisture content of their crop before making deliveries.
Interviewed farmers expressed satisfaction with the level of efficiency at the GMB depot.
Mashonaland Central Province has a projected maize crop yield of more than 455 000 metric tonnes this year.