Failure to regularise operations impacts negatively on Jaspro
FAILURE to regularise operations with the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) is affecting Jambezi Small Grains Seed Producers’ (Jaspro) ability to penetrate larger markets to sell their produce.
Jaspro, a community owned and run company was commissioned in 2014 but has since then failed to yield the expected results mostly because of lack of funding to register its operations with SAZ.
The setback has resulted in retailers shunning the company’s produce citing fears over their failure to display expiry dates on its millet and sorghum products. A 5kg bag of millet costs $4.65 while sorghum is pegged at $4.85.
In an interview, Jambezi ward councillor, Binwell Sibanda said the rationalisation of their operations by registering with product regulator SAZ was seriously affecting the take-off of the project at large scale.
“Initially when we started this project it was for small grain producers of sorghum and millet among other varieties depending on availability. Depending on the amount of grain produced the excess was extended to milling and packaging for sale. However, we have been unable to do mass production because of issues, which include registering our products with SAZ,” said Clr Sibanda.
He said the situation has made retailers and businesses to shun the project’s products since they do not display expiry dates.
Clr Sibanda said although milling was being done at low levels the SAZ certification issue was seriously affecting the realisation of the full potential of the programme as the project was struggling to stand on firm ground as a result of low business.
“We should be registered with SAZ so that if we mill our products would be bearing the shelf life tag but with us it is a different situation. Unfortunately we are not registered with SAZ. We are trying by all means to engage partners and stakeholders that we work with to link us up with other people to enable the registration of the produce.”
Clr Sibanda said they were also working on professionalising the company’s operations by engaging qualified personnel to run their accounts and market the products.
“We have a serious deficit in the knowledge on how to effectively operate and seek new markets as we do not have money to pay personnel. This has forced us to continue using the committee that was responsible for the construction phase of the project and are no longer relevant. What we are saying is we want to run professionally, we want to hire skilled labour and have someone to mind the books and market our products,” he said.
The project operates from a large warehouse and a fully equipped farmhouse with milling machinery, storerooms, a sales hall, packaging and milling facilities.
The infrastructure was funded by the European Union through the facilitation of relief agency, COSV Zimbabwe.
The association’s chairperson, Mr Philip Tshuma said the facility had the potential to produce commercially.
“Once the contentious issue of registering with SAZ is out of the way and markets have been secured we are able to go to mass production of our products. We do not have specific figures because we drew a lesson from our first trial where we milled five tonnes comprising of pearl millet and sorghum but failed to get quick returns because of the time it took to sell the products.
“This resulted in failure to pay farmers who had sold their grain to us. So we agreed that we would mill as per demand, however, we are ready to venture into mass production,” he said.
Meanwhile, the company has resorted to renting out some of the storerooms, which are not being utilised because of the low production to generate income to settling some bills such as electricity.
In 2014 17 families and farmers came together and formed the Jambezi Small Grain Seed Producers Association in an effort to add value to small grains by milling and packaging them to fetch better prices. The project sought to address food and nutrition insecurity challenges faced by vulnerable households.
It was also meant to help households in the drought stricken district to broaden their economic activities away from monoculture maize production and negative livelihood coping mechanisms by seeking a more diversified range of food and income sources.
Jambezi villagers, with assistance from Agritex and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) have intensified calls for communities to embrace small grains as an adaptive method to climate change and drought.