Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has started disbursing funds to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to acquire critical grain storage resources in anticipation of improved deliveries following the heavy rains received throughout the country that have since increased prospects for improved yields.
GMB acting general manager Mr Lawrence Jasi said the company requires about $15 million for the procurement and rehabilitation of grain storage resources.
The company’s successful grain mobilisation and good grain storage is dependent on the readiness of its silos and storage sheds, which require availability of resources such as empty bags, tarpaulins, plastic sheeting and gum-poles for dunnage.
“The GMB would like to assure the nation that Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe have started releasing the required funding to ensure the speedy acquisition of critical storage resources in preparation for the anticipated bumper harvest. As of now, a total of 3 973 000 of storage and handling capacity is available to store grain out of a total installed capacity of 4 288 200 tonnes,” said Mr Jasi.
Silos, which constitute 17,5 percent of the company’s storage and handling capacity at 749 500 tonnes have the ability to store 434 300 tonnes with hard stands having the capacity to handle 365 000 tonnes while shed storage being able to accommodate 173 700 tonnes.
Mr Jasi said overhauls will be done on the silos machinery to restore them to their rated grain conveyance capacity with work at the Bulawayo Depot having been completed in November last year.
He said work at Aspindale Depot started last month with the overhauls being extended to Banket, Lions Den, Concession and Chegutu. The rehabilitation process is set to complete in April in time for the intake of the harvested yield.
“GMB has so far received $500 000 (being used for the current overhaul works and a commitment of $2,5 million to kickstart water proofing works) has been set aside by Treasury,” said Mr Jasi.
He also said $1,3 million has been made available towards procurement of storage resources while $3 million had been committed towards silo rehabilitation.
“More resources have been promised by Treasury towards the budgetary requirements in line with the implementation plan,” said Mr Jasi.
Funding constraints over the years have led to GMB failing to adhere to regular maintenance schedules of its silos leading to their deterioration. The silos started deteriorating about eight years ago with limited maintenance being carried out.
Mr Jasi said regular maintenance of silos could be achieved through regular payment of Strategic Grain Reserve management fees by Treasury and utilisation of earnings from third party storage for maintenance works. The GMB is also considering Public Private Partnerships in line with Government policy.
“It must be appreciated that GMB silos are currently equipped with old mechanical and electrical systems that are susceptible to frequent breakdowns and hence the need for spare parts to be readily available. GMB, like other organisations, in the industry is experiencing challenges to import spare parts since dollarisation,” said Mr Jasi.
The oldest silos were constructed in 1953 and the latest one was commissioned in 1987. Silos can go beyond 50 years provided proper maintenance and upgrades are carried out.
Mr Jasi, however, said GMB has put in place strategies to receive a projected total of 1 200 000 tonnes of maize at its depots in the 2017/18 marketing season against the backdrop of an anticipated bumper harvest following a good rainy season that was supported by the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme and the Special Maize Programme for import substitution.
“The plan is being funded by Government and GMB’s own resources, and to date available capacity across all GMB depots countrywide is 3 973 000 tonnes which is adequate to meet the projected intake,” said Mr Jasi.