FARMERS have so far delivered more than 1 million tonnes of maize to the Strategic Grain Reserves at the Grain Marketing Board with more deliveries expected until the end of October.

Mashonaland West province, which is the major producer of grain in the country, has contributed more than 400 000 tonnes to the grain reserves.

The deliveries are expected to match last season’s deliveries of around 1,2 million tonnes as the country consolidates its push towards food sufficiency.

In an interview recently, GMB managing director Mr Rockie Mutenha said deliveries are continuing at an average rate of 75 000 tonnes per week.

“Deliveries continue to flow in at an average of 75 000 tonnes of maize per week and as of yesterday (last Friday), we had received a million tonnes of maize and almost 40 000 of soyabeans and about 15 000 tonnes of small grains at our depots throughout the country,” said Mr Mutenha.

He said Treasury was releasing funds to pay farmers on time, which has resulted in payment periods of between a week and a fortnight upon delivery.

“Payments are going on very well on a weekly basis. We are receiving money from Treasury through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“In the majority of cases we are paying within one week. Where we have problems with bank details, it might stretch for up to two weeks.”

Mr Mutenha said decentralisation of all paperwork related to payment of farmers has resulted in farmers being paid on time to prepare for the 2018-19 summer season.

This has resulted in less complaints over payments delays which plagued GMB over the years resulting in farmers resorting to selling their grain to middlemen.

The GMB is also working on establishing a computer-based system that will see farmers being paid in real time after delivery.

Mr Mutenha said grain collection points have been established near farmers to decongest the main depots and also to dissuade them from selling their produce to middlemen.

“We have ensured that the nearest collection point to a farmer is within a six- kilometre radius. It is then up to the GMB to uplift the grain using its own resources to the main depot,” he said.

“We have brought the mobile or collection points close to the farmer. We have also launched mobile collection points where farmers are advised on when our trucks will come to collect grain in their areas.”

He reiterated calls for farmers not to sell their grain to middlemen saying the $390 per tonne price was to assist farmers meet the cost of production and remain with a profit.

Zimbabwe has, in the past two seasons, seen an improved agricultural production anchored on Government programmes as Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Support Scheme.

The programmes have seen the country inch towards food self-sustenance especially at household levels while Government expects Zimbabwe to retain its breadbasket status in the short term.