HARARE — The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) says the government should pay the $42 million it owes the parastatal, which would enable it to settle its arrears after it failed to pay workers for up to three months.
GMB general manager Albert Mandizha told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture on Tuesday that the board was using income from its commercial activities to subsidise the government.
“The government owes us $42 million as of last week and we are not asking for charity, it’s our money,” he said.
Mandizha said general workers had gone for two months without pay while managerial staff had not been paid for three months yet the $42 million was enough to pay salaries for almost two years.
“We are now looking for January (2014) salaries,” he said.
Mandizha said in the last five years the GMB had paid Treasury a dividend of $15 million from its commercial activities.
He also appealed to the government to settle the $8,6 million owed to transporters from the last marketing season.
“There is one big debt which the government needs to tackle and it has been taking too long. The indigenous transporters are having their properties attached and we need them for the new season,” he said.
GMB expects to buy 250 000 tonnes of maize this season and Agriculture permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko said they were negotiating with some banks to provide cash to pay farmers when they deliver grain.
He said the government had reduced its debt to farmers for the last two seasons to $1,5 million from $6,5 million.
“We are currently paying farmers and by end of this month we will have settled with them,” said Chitsiko.
The country requires 2,1 million tonnes of maize annually; 1,5 million tonnes for human consumption and the remainder for livestock and industrial use.
GMB was allocated $96 million in the 2014 budget and Chitsiko said the Agriculture ministry had applied to Treasury for $7 million to pay AVIC, a Chinese company to carry out the repairs on grain silos.
GMB has installed silo capacity of 740 500 tonnes, but only 423 700 tonnes is available.
— The Source