The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation has asked Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) to freeze the sale of 100 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize to Zimbabwe.
The resolution was made yesterday after the committee summoned Admarc board and management to explain the sale of maize to Zimbabwe, progress on this year’s maize purchases, the suspension of the company’s general manager Rhino Chiphiko and the corporation’s readiness for the next growing season.
Committee chairperson Sameer Suleman said they are worried that the country may not have enough maize to warrant exporting it to Zimbabwe.
He said there is a need to ensure that there is enough maize locally and that the selling price makes business sense.
Said Suleman: “There is need to clearly check if the country has enough maize. Already we have seen that some MPs are struggling to access maize to support their constituents.”
He also noted that the 2021 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) did not have the desired impact, yet fertiliser prices have gone up which will affect this year’s programme and in turn food security.
Noting that the agreement that Admarc signed with Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe was not made on headed paper, Suleman said it was not contractual, but rather a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that should have no legal implications.
“How do you sign a contract of maize worth K22 billion on plain paper without the company’s letterhead? We urge you not to sell that maize,” he said.
Suleman also faulted the board for signing the ‘deal’ instead of management and in the absence of the company lawyer, saying: “The deal should have been managed by the company’s management, with the board only providing guidance.”
The committee further said it was strange that Admarc signed the alleged agreement on May 20 to sell 100 000MT of maize when it only had 46 000MT that could be spared.
Admarc board chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi told the committee that Chiphiko, currently on suspension in connection with the procurement of his official vehicle, assured them that there was enough maize to supply to the Zimbabwean firm.
However, Admarc head of operations Gannet Gwembere told the committee that the parastatal has 46 000MT and that is what he had reported to Chiphiko.
“I was asked about the quantity that was not committed. I told the general manager that we have 46 000 metric tonnes. He did not say anything apart from that,” he said.
Gwembere, who was initially appointed acting general manager before Jeromy Nkhoma came in, also told the committee that management was not briefed on the maize sale contract.
He said management was waiting to be briefed by Chiphiko why he inquired about maize quantities, but he was suspended before he did so.
Following the committee resolution to suspend the maize sale, Dzonzi said the State grain trader will not sell it until a comprehensive assessment on the country’s maize situation is done.
He said the board only learnt through the meeting that there was inadequate maize in stock to sell to Zimbabwe.
“We are also hearing about 46 000MT now. The general manager told us we had enough maize. He talked of about 162 000MT and that would have made it possible to supply the 100 000,” said Dzonzi, who eared some information was being concealed about the maize deal, adding the board just realised in the meeting with the committee that no handovers were made between Chiphiko and Gwembere.
“Admarc will communicate to the mother ministry about the committee’s decision,” said Dzonzi.
However, he had earlier told the committee that Admarc consulted the Ministry of Agriculture and was assured that there is enough maize; hence, the decision to sell.
Dzonzi said keeping the maize is also expensive as the parastatal spends K300 million per month.
When contacted for his reaction on the matter, Chiphiko declined to comment, saying he is on suspension.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said they already wrote to Admarc to suspend the sale of maize until an assessment of its availability is made and to enable the Department of Disaster Management Affairs to assess how many people would need food following disasters.
However, he said the country has enough food in stock.