Do you remember Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019? Do you remember 2019? That was the year we had a drought (2018-2019) and grain yields were very low. The law was passed in a bit to compel farmers to make grain deliveries to the GMB instead of selling the grain to customers and millers themselves. It was a total failure but now the government was to re-enforce the law again amidst another season of low deliveries. With farmers’ pleas to be paid at least 50% in USD falling on deaf government ears.

The government’s plans to punish and compel farmers to make deliveries to GMB were revealed in a recent letter to GMB Chief Executive Officer MR Mutenha.

RE: OPERATIONALISATION OF STATUTORY INSTRUMENT 145 OF 2019

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The above subject matter refers.

Ministry has noted with concern the low deliveries of grain to GMB since the start of the marketing season on 1 April 2022. This is evident of side-marketing tendencies by farmers considering that about 30 000MT has been harvested to date Vis-a-vis deliveries to GMB of about 5 000MT

You are therefore required to operationalise the provisions of S.I 145/19 in order to prevent and avert the side marketing of grain with immediate effect. This includes but is not limited to conducting grain busting operations at various non GMB depots, as wel as the setting up of permit inspections at various points such as road blocks. You are also encouraged to ride on our partnerships with members of the Joint Operaton Command in the execution of this important task.

Dr. J Basera

SECREATRY FOR LANDS, AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, WATER AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

The scourge of command everything

The government of Zimbabwe has adopted an adversarial stance towards just about every sector of the economy. When it comes to exchange rate spikes it’s not the government’s fault but rather the work of saboteurs, price increases are a result of price and rate manipulations, and informal traders ought to be treated like the enemy, to force people to keep money in bank accounts they introduce a withdrawal tax. This is just the latest chapter. The problem is that authorities even the invincible JOC become bogged down on so many fronts they hardly have any time to enforce any laws the government considers important.

This will be no different. SI 145 of 2019 is just one of the many draconian and probably illegal laws the government has passed. It hasn’t been enforced because it is, to put it mildly not a good law. It seeks to rob farmers of their grain in return for sub-economic payments. Ultimately it will put farmers out of business and achieve the opposite of what the government is aiming to achieve-to be the breadbasket of Africa again.

The law is just the muscle side of the government’s toxic interference in the Agriculture sector with the other one being command agriculture. While it has been peddled as a success it has been a drain on the country’s economy as incompetent farmers are propped up using cheap loans that they never repay each year. According to one source, the default rate for these loans is over 70%. That is not all, government officials often use Command Agriculture as a piggyback. Even the government itself admitted this when it arrested the deputy minister for corruption. Command Agriculture is a cesspool of corruption and incompetence that is doing more harm than good.

The best thing would be to deregulate the grain sector. Farmers should be given title deeds and use these to get actual loans. Incompetent ones will be pushed out of agriculture eventually. The obstinate plan to make leases bankable has proven futile over the years as no bank is willing to honour them despite the government’s saying they should. Not even government-affiliated banks are that stupid and that is just telling.

Any way side marketing is not as bad as the letter is making it to be unless if there is exporting of the grain. With side marketing, the farmers actually get paid viable prices without the GMB acting as the lecherous middleman. It will be a win-win for the farmers. The only organisation that doesn’t get to benefit is the GMB. Frankly, no one will shed a tear over this entity.