News Column

SI 122 Doesn't Supersede Contractual Pacts - Ministry

August 20, 2014

Lynn Murahwa

The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development has said Statutory Instrument 122 of 2014 which regulates the prices of small grains will not displace set contractual agreements. The new Statutory Instrument (SI) stipulates that it is mandatory that grain in the country be procured at a floor price of $390 per tonne.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Davis Marapira told BH24 that the current "noise" over the Statutory Instrument was due to a lack of understanding of the regulation.

While admitting that the statutory instrument lacked clarity on the matter, the Deputy Minister said the Government will not prosecute millers who have a contractual agreement with farmers for a privately arranged price.

"The millers that are now panicking did not understand the Statutory Instrument and although it did not elaborate the millers just assumed and did not come to engage the ministry for clarification," he said.

"A contract remains binding and we will not be prosecuting the traders who have contractual agreements with farmers.

"They have agreed between each other and if the farmers want to sell their products at a lower price than we have suggested, then they are free to do so."

He said no farmers would be forced out of contracts that they have signed.

"The $390 is a guideline but it is up to the farmer whether they want to be contracted for less," said deputy Minister Marapira.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is on record expressing discontent with the new regulation, saying it would render all contracts void.

"If contract farming is disenabled, as is the case now, corn production will be way below national requirement and serious food shortages for the staple crop will occur, which will lead to serious starvation and malnutrition," Mr Musarara has said.

He urged private contractors to engage the Government before taking action.

"Contractors should ask for advice from the relevant authorities just as the rest of the traders should come to the Ministry and seek advice.

"There is no need for the traders to sue the Government, especially since they never requested a meeting with us," he said.

This could mean that the millers' proposed legal action against Government could turn out to be a damp squib, with Mr Musarara having said the GMAZ and Zimbabwe's Oil Seed Traders' Association had since filed a joint constitutional application in the courts.

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Source: AllAfrica

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