Severe grain deficit looms


Itai Dzamara

ZIMBABWE faces a severe grain deficit again this season due to poor planning by government and lack of inputs and draught power among newly resettled farmers.



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>This is evident in all main farming areas where vast swathes of land have remained fallow while early maize is turning yellow due to an acute shortage of ammonium nitrate fertiliser.


There was also a serious shortage of tillage power last year despite claims by government of tractors coming into the country from China, France and Iran.


The District Development Fund and Arda do not have foreign currency to procure spare parts for thousands of tractors at their various depots.


Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) managing director Kwenda Dzarira said the combination of seed and fertiliser shortages and prohibitive prices had affected most farmers this season.


“The outlook of any agricultural season is determined at the end of the rainy season. We are aware that inputs have not been enough. The available seeds and fertiliser are not enough and the prices are too restrictive for most farmers,” he said. “There was a breakdown at Sable Chemicals in Kwekwe where we expected the bulk of our fertilisers (to come from) and this affected us heavily.”


Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Doug Taylor-Freeme said the assessment by the union reflected another year of a serious shortfall.


“It’s not looking good at all. Inputs are in short supply and the confusion surrounding the land reform still haunts productivity in the farming sector,” Taylor-Freeme said. “We are likely to have lower harvests than even last year due to the effects of all these negative factors.”


Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary for agriculture, Renson Gasela, said his projections were that there would be a decline in the quantity of grain from this year’s harvest compared to last year.


A survey done by the parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture last year concluded the country had a huge grain deficit despite government’s claims that there was a bumper harvest.


The parliamentary committee established that about 340 000 tonnes of maize had been delivered to the Grain Marketing Board by October compared to claims of over 2,4 million tonnes by government.


The country requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption plus another 500 000 tonnes for strategic reserves.


It has since emerged that government, which had repeatedly told donor agencies to take their assistance to “hungrier people elsewhere”, is accelerating grain imports.


The South African Grain Services this week released figures indicating that Zimbabwe is importing up to 8 000 tonnes of maize a week. The Zimbabwe Independent established late last year that government had placed an order for a gross of 300 000 tonnes of maize.


The country has been experiencing food deficits since Zanu PF supporters and war veterans embarked on farm seizures in 2000.


White commercial farmers were chased off their productive properties which were subdivided into tiny plots for subsistence farming.