The Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the custodian of the country’s grain reserves, indefinitely suspended grain allocations to millers for unclear reasons, reported NewsDay.
The publication quoted players in the grain industry on Tuesday as saying GMB reduced maize allocations to millers from 100% to 75% in February and further cut them to 50% last month.
A miller who wanted to remain anonymous was quoted as saying:
We have gone for more than six weeks without an allocation. We are getting supplies every four weeks.
We used to apply and get allocations each month, then submit returns around mid-month. We started getting 75% three months ago, then last month, it went down to 50%.
On Friday last week, we made payments and waited for allocations, but everything just stopped.
They didn’t give us any reasons, but we are told by people at GMB that they want to increase the maize producer price in order to attract deliveries because the $75 000 is now very low.
We are also told stocks are running out and it’s obviously true and that’s why they allowed us to import freely.
A top executive with one of the country’s major millers who preferred anonymity said:
Things were normal and I can confirm the allocations were just stopped and we don’t really know why. I wouldn’t want to lie, but we can only speculate.
Another senior official with a top milling firm told NewsDay that authorities should allow millers to access foreign currency at the RBZ auction. Said the official:
The question for us major millers is that we move huge volumes and our shareholders will be worried about this scenario, where you import maize in US dollars and then you don’t know if you are allowed to sell in US dollars to recover your money without having to then go to the black market and risk huge exchange rate losses.
It would be better if they allowed us to go on the auction like what oil expressers are doing.
Grain is in short supply due to inadequate rainfall in the 2021/22 season as well as the withholding of produce by farmers who want more cash for their harvest.
GMB increased the maize producer by 50% to $75 000 per tonne and the government said it would be paying 30% in US dollars and the rest in local currency.
However, farmers immediately demanded a 50% US dollar payment for their grain.