Farmers owing Zesa blame delayed GMB payments

FARMERS with outstanding electricity bills have blamed their failure to meet their obligations on delayed or non-payments by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) saying the situation was making it difficult for them to even borrow from financial institutions, let alone pay service providers like the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) for services rendered.

GMB finance manager Mr Farai Zanza yesterday said the parastatal had paid $89, 3 billion (local currency) and US$19, 2 million to farmers but could not disclose the amount GMB still owed farmers saying he was not in the office to check the statistics. He also could neither confirm nor deny the farmers’ allegations.

The farmers’ comments come on the backdrop of growing calls by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development and ZESA for them to settle their electricity bills promptly to access uninterrupted power supplies, which is critical in boosting agricultural production.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said some farmers had not been paid for the wheat they delivered in October yet they were expected to honour obligations like payment of bills. The bills keep ballooning because of rising interest rates yet the farmers’ money is being held somewhere, explained Mrs Chinamasa.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Dr Shadreck Makombe concurred with Mrs Chinamasa saying some farmers were yet to be paid by GMB for the wheat they delivered adding that some arrangements were being made for farmers to pay their ZESA bills as soon as they received their payments.

“We are pushing GMB to pay the farmers. GMB has since promised to do so. After that we can pay the ZESA and ZETDC outstanding bills for consistent and reliable supplies of electricity to support our agricultural production processes,” he said.

He highlighted that it was important for ZETDC and ZESA to engage farmers to understand the reasons behind the delayed bill settlements and work out viable solutions for both parties. Dr Makombe urged farmers to communicate their payment challenges and provide timelines when they can begin clearing their bills.

Dr Makombe appealed to ZETDC and ZESA not to disconnect power to farmers over the outstanding payments.

Meanwhile, ZESA and the Ministry have since called on farmers to make some effort towards settling their bills on time even through small regular amounts for uninterrupted supply of electricity and boost agricultural production.

Uninterrupted power supplies play a pivotal role in boosting agricultural production. Electricity is vital for powering some components of modern farming tools or facilities such as irrigation, machinery and storage equipment, enabling farmers to operate efficiently and maximise their output.

Herald

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