ILLEGAL grain buyers continue to fleece farmers in Makonde District by buying their produce for cash at far below the gazetted price of grain.

Middlemen have continued to flock to areas such as Mhangura, Alaska, Chihwiti and Doma targeting farmers who desperately need cash owing to limited use of plastic and mobile money in these areas.

A snap survey of Mhangura and areas adjacent to it indicated that a number of illegal buyers continue to lure farmers to part with their maize and soya beans at give-away prices. Currently, a 50kg bag of maize is going for around $11, while soya beans is being sold for as little as $20.

In separate interviews, farmers selling their maize to middlemen said there was no difference with delivering their maize to Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots owing to payment using virtual money.

“In the village, buying using EcoCash or other modes of payment apart from cash is not possible,” said one farmer.

“GMB pays us through plastic or mobile money and we will be forced to buy cash to be able to buy goods and services in our respective areas.”

Farmers said they are forced to buy money on the parallel market or wait long hours in queues to get money that will not be enough to meet their needs.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) second vice president and Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) board member Mr Berean Mukwende warned illegal grain buyers that they risk being arrested and prosecuted.

“AMA stipulates that for one to buy grain, he/she should be licensed. On getting the licence, they will be given the price structures that they are supposed to follow,” said Mr Mukwende.

“If they underpay the farmers, they risk losing the licences and facing prosecution.

“The same goes for all the illegal grain buyers who are sprouting all over the province. The long arm of the law will definitely catch up with them.”