4 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Grain Bag Shortage Hits Farmers

Photo: The Standard
Silos in Zimbabwe.

The supply of grain bags remains constrained, prompting the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and farmers to import them, putting more pressure on the supply of foreign currency.

Zimbabwe is currently facing serious foreign currency shortages, forcing businesses to source it from the black market at a premium of more than 40%.

Farmers who spoke to Standardbusiness last week said the shortage of grain bags in the country was negatively affecting them.

"During the last harvest season we felt it (shortage of grain bags) because we had to run around looking for them. Most farmers don't have grain bags facilities," Federation of Farmers' Union chairman Wonder Chabikwa said.

"As such, if the matter is not being resolved, it will definitely affect us again this season in terms of grain storage.

"These are things that we are supposed to be manufacturing as a country, but we are importing them," he said.

Chabikwa said it was the responsiblity of the GMB, the buyer, to source grain bags.

"It is the duty of the GMB to make sure that grain bags are available. Surely, we don't expect farmers to start importing them," he said.

Farmers said the situation needed to be addressed with urgency to avoid unnecessary losses as they do not have storage facilities.

Addressing delegates during the 2018 GMB strategy review and planning workshop held in Nyanga recently, GMB board chairman Charles Chikaura said Zimbabwe was facing an acute shortage of grain bags, which was a cause for concern.

"Local supply of grain bags remains constrained and in the last season the GMB resorted to import the bags causing delays in their availability to farmers. Despite these challenges, farmers were also allowed to deliver grain in their own grain bags," he said.

He said the grain procurer intends to invest in its grain bag manufacturing company, Kneebowe, to more than double the production capacity to 23 million per year from 9,1 million bags.

One of the country's grain bag manufacturers, Zimbabwe Grain Bag, in 2015 reduced the number of working days to two weeks a month as challenges affecting the textile industry in the country continued unabated.

Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri, who also attended the meeting, said the process of acquiring grain handling and storage resources for the 2018/19 marketing season had already started.

He said Treasury and the Reserve Bank had provided resources in excess of $36 million during the year under review towards acquisition of grain handling and storage resources.

"The financial resources enabled us to produce about 70% of the targeted materials," Shiri said, adding that the commercial business remained critical to the sustainability of GMB operations.

He said the commercial business suffered as all attention was on strategic grain reserves due to the overwhelming grain intake volumes.

"Most depots were not replenishing their commercial stocks resulting in loss of business and market share," Shiri said.

Commercial Farmers' Union director Ben Gilpin could not be drawn into commenting on the grain bag shortages as he has not been in the country for a long time.

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