UNSCRUPULOUS Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and Agricultural Extension Services (Agritex) officials stealing and diverting farming inputs onto the black market for resale are "worse than witches", Mashonaland West provincial minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka has said.
She was speaking Wednesday at a stakeholders' meeting in Chinhoyi to discuss the 2020 cropping season post-harvest modalities and plans for the impending 2021 winter wheat season.
The minister said those stealing the public property were sabotaging government's efforts to ensure the country attained food self-sufficiency.
Minister Mliswa-Chikoka said deserving beneficiaries of the CBZ Agro-Yield financed Command Agricultural Programme were being denied inputs on flimsy grounds, while some corrupt elements within the two quasi-governmental institutions were stealing inputs or demanding bribes from desperate farmers in return for seed or fertiliser.
She described thieving and bribe-taking GMB and Agritex employees as "worse than witches" bent on derailing the nation's efforts to stave-off hunger and grow the economy, as enunciated in Vision 2030, on the back of a thriving agricultural sector.
"Some GMB officials think that they are solely responsible for allocating inputs to farmers, yet this is not the case.
"Agritex runs the programme and are the ones on the ground and know which farmer deserves to get what.
"However, some GMB and Agritex officers are heads of the pilferage rackets and are disadvantaging suffering farmers. They are so clever in covering up their evil deeds."
Added Mliswa-Chikoka, "These thieves are actually worse than witches... far, far worse than witches because you will always suspect that someone is a witch and it remains suspicion, but in this case, we know these thieves."
She urged members of the public to report corrupt officials to relevant authorities.
"Who polices the GMB if we don't?" the minister said.
Command Agriculture Programme national head, Brigadier-General David Nyasha reiterated beneficiaries should make deliveries of their maize crop to the GMB and shun side-marketing to middlemen to ensure sustainability and viability of the revolving scheme.
"The level of recoveries (of loans) was 34% last year which was not pleasing. It's not fair for farmers to side-market, let's encourage farmers to pay back to the bank because this is a revolving fund. Let's deliver grain to GMB," said Brig-Gen Nyasha.
Agritex said combine harvesters were available for hire to farmers to expedite the harvesting process.
At the meeting, GMB was implored to ensure adequate grain bags and dryers as well as set a fixed required grain moisture content level to curb farmers being turned away at depots for delivering 'wet' grain.
The national silo was urged to install stand-by generators to power their administration and payments departments to guarantee seamless service provision to avoid frustrating farmers due to long winding queues and late payments for grain deliveries.