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Admarc asks government to buy controversial maize

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Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi

Following the suspension of all maize exports on account of possible hunger, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has asked the government to, instead, buy all its maize and keep it at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) so that it can pay banks the grain trader owes money to.

Admarc Board Chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said the company has to repay its loans, satisfy collateral obligations and warehousing management costs on top of paying their staff.

“In this case, what we will ask is that government should buy the maize and keep it at the National Food Reserve Agency or else we will continue accruing more debts. We need to get other loans to buy maize from smallholder farmers this year and the banks cannot give us the loans if we do not meet our current obligations.

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“Government cannot just say ‘don’t sell the maize’ without buying it from us because, then, we should as well close Admarc because we cannot just keep people without paying them,” he said.

Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe did not pick up his mobile phone for a comment but Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said the Admarc board should send its concerns through the right channels.

“I wouldn’t want to be engaging the Admarc Board Chairperson in the media. In any case, he knows how to engage government and he should use those channels,” he said.

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Meanwhile, details have emerged that, on top of the controversial 100,000 metric tonnes (mt) of maize export deal with Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Graz), Admarc had another running maize export contract with Malaika Feeds of Kenya at a lesser price of $195 per tonne.

The contract, which was signed by the suspended General Manager Rhino Chiphiko, was to see Admarc sell 40,000mt tonnes of maize between March and July this year.

“Following the guidance from government and the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, we have suspended all maize export deals including the Malaika one,” he said.

Dzonzi concedes that the company risks being sued for breach of contract but expressed hope that government would intervene.

The Admarc-Gmaz contract came in the spotlight when Chiphiko said he blocked it for not following procedures.

Among other issues, it transpired that Board Chairperson Kusamba Dzonzi signed on behalf of Admarc instead of the GM.

When Admarc appeared before Parliament on Wednesday, questions of conflict of interest also arose as it transpired that one of the directors on the board used his law firm to prepare the contract with Gmaz.

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