The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe owes $55 million to its grain suppliers (foreign) and banks and risks losing fresh contracts should they fail to service the debt in two months' time, the association's chairman Tafadzwa Musarara has said.
Zimbabwe has, through local millers, been importing wheat to augment local stocks from Asia and Europe using foreign currency extended to them by local banks.
The reasons for importing wheat, according to the milling industry, are, among others, the continent's unfavourable wheat and rice production climatic conditions.
Addressing journalists in Harare soon after arriving from Canada where they had gone to source 200 000 tonnes of wheat to supplement the depleting local stocks, on Wednesday Musarara said failure by local millers to settle the $55 million debt to their grain suppliers was going to affect new business deals.
"We have taken this issue to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor who has assured us that they are going to take it with the urgency it deserves, because we used to be funded by local banks who are now saying that we need to repay what we owe them first as well," he said.
"The Reserve Bank has also assured us that all the wheat imports that are coming from now onwards would be paid within the agreed timeframes and they have promised to clear all our arrears and we are very grateful for that," he said.
During their week-long visit to Canada, Musarara said they managed to strike the 200 000 wheat importation deal whose deliveries are expected to start in September.
"We met various stakeholders including wheat farmers and business people there who welcomed us and we owe this maiden visit to North America in more than 20 years to President Mnangagwa's Zimbabwe open for business mantra that has seen us again directly trading with the international community," he said.
"As a result of the trip you are going to see 90 000 tonnes of wheat coming into the country in September and the remainder following in December," he said.
According to GMAZ, Zimbabwe is left with a three months of wheat stock and the 200 000 metric tonnes they are importing would take the nation through to the next harvesting season.