HARARE, Feb 26- Zimbabwean has revised from 1.3 million tonnes to to 1.8 million tonnes the amount of maize it projects to produce this cropping season, says the permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Ringson Chitsiko.

The Ministry was still in the process of carrying out a second crop and livestock assessment survey, said Chitsiko when presenting oral evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation here Tuesday.

“We expect anything upwards of 1.6 and 1.8 million tonnes. We are in the process of doing our second crop assessment which will actually give us a fair handle on the estimated production,” he said, adding that if the country continued to receive rains up to about the end of March it would certainly harvest surplus maize for sale.

“Therefore there is need for the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to be ready to purchase that grain,” he said.

He told the committee that the government’s finances were not in good shape and expected that the government would facilitate GMB to buy some of the grain, particularly the mandatory strategic grain reserve, that in physical form stands at about 500,000 tonnes. That amount of money must be found, he said.

Chitsiko expressed optimism that the private sector would purchase some of the grain. “In terms of preparedness, there are various efforts that are afoot. As we speak, Treasury has already allocated an initial 90 million US dollars towards the purchase of grain for the Strategic Reserve but for us to be able to satisfy the full requirement, we need between 360 million and 400 million,” he said.

Chitsiko said the GMB would have to look for the additional money to purchase the grain from farmers. “We will approach the private sector, for the possibility of sourcing this extra funding so that all the grain that the farmers have on offer can be purchased by GMB,” he added.

He also said all GMB silos were in urgent need of repair and maintenance before grain could be storedin them but funding constraints had been hindering the exercise. “It is not only those silos at Aspindale which will require this maintenance, everywhere in the country where we are having these silos require periodic maintenance,” he said.

A Chinese company has expressed willingness to partner GMB in repairing the silos but the board should pay 7.0 million USD up front, he said. “We are hoping that before we can start to receive large inflows in these silos, something will have been done to the silos,” he said.

Finance and Economic Development Ministry Acting Permanent Secretary Pfungwa Kunaka told the same Committee that although the government was facing cash shortages, the Treasury would ensure that funds were available to purchase grain from farmers.

“The experience of 2012 where we were not able to finance grain purchase should never be repeated. There will be need for a strategy whether a financial institution will come forward to buy maize but we will not be short of plans to purchase grain from farmers,” he said.