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FARMERS are lobbying Government to set aside the wheat import quota to ensure that home-grown wheat is mopped up as millers expressed concern at continued issuance of import permits during winter wheat harvesting.

In a letter to Mr Clemence Bwenje, a director in the department of economics and markets in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Development, the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe expressed concern at the “excessive issuance of flour import permits during winter wheat harvesting”.

GMAZ chairman Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said the milling industry is saddened and dismayed by the issuance of permits of flour to traders and local bakers outside the agreed framework.

“Consequently, the market is experiencing an unfortunate glut of flour and this is militating against our industry efforts to mop out the estimated 15 000 tonnes of wheat grown by non-contracted farmers,” said Mr Musarara.

“We implore you to ensure, as per standing arrangements, to make the whole process fair and transparent with all stakeholders consulted. For the benefit of farmers, we gly contend that all the issued permits be cancelled and only re-issued to deserving cases. This will allow farmers’ wheat to be bought and paid for promptly by buyers,” he said.

However, during the 2015 National Budget presentation last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced duty suspension on wheat flour had been extended by another year while the wheat flour quota is maintained at 5 000 tonnes per month.

Minutes of the meeting with farmers’ union presidents, GMB and Grain Millers’ Association on wheat marketing held at the Agricultural Marketing Authority offices say that farmers have produced about 10 percent of the 400 000 tonnes which is the national requirement.

Imports statistics obtained from the ZimStat show that Zimbabwe imported wheat or meslin flour in bulk worth about $14 158 318 up to October.

AMA marketing and economic research executive director, Mrs Nancy Zitsanza, who chaired the meeting, highlighted that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss wheat marketing following concerns from farmers that there were no buyers of locally produced wheat.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union second vice president Mr Berean Mukwende, on behalf of farmers’ unions, aised that farmers were finding it difficult to offload their wheat to private millers as they claimed that they were buying from their contracted farmers.

“The irony of the matter was, however, that the same millers were importing wheat while neglecting wheat which was already in Zimbabwe.

“The farmers therefore requested for the import quota to be set aside in relation to all wheat produced locally to ensure that the local wheat was purchased,” the minutes say.

However, GMAZ chairman Mr Musarara said about seven millers were currently operating in Zimbabwe with a capacity to process 33 000- 36 000 tonnes per month.

Mr Musarara noted that contracted wheat had first preference in terms of purchase but was quick to indicate that private traders were not keen to participate in wheat marketing as they were not sure of the implications of statutory instrument on grain prices.

He said traders were willing to purchase local wheat provided the Government does not enact a fixed price.

Meanwhile, the wheat import parity price from Russia is $440-$445 per tonne while traders and millers preferred a price of $430, $420 and $390 per tonne for premium, standard and utility respectively for local wheat.

The meeting resolved that GMAZ was to approach its membership and traders and urge them to mop up all the local wheat and farmers unions were to provide a list of farmers who still had wheat to GMAZ.

For farmers who had already delivered to GMB and wanted to withdraw their wheat, the meeting recommended that they be given the option to do so at their own initiative.

Farmers’ unions were requested to provide a database of wheat growers to AMA as it helps in terms of planning and that millers and traders were urged to act responsibly and prioritise local products to avoid attracting unnecessary attention from the authorities.

Source : The Herald

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