AGRICULTURE minister Joseph Made’s handling of the food stocks issue has reportedly angered President Robert Mugabe and the minister faces the axe in an expected cabinet reshuffle.
Government sources said Mugabe expressed dissatisfaction at assurances given by Made that there would be enough maize from this year’s harvest during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
Mugabe has been insisting since early this year that the country would not need humanitarian assistance because it had reaped a bumper harvest.
Government projections, which originated from Made’s office, said the country would have 2,4 million tonnes of maize from this year’s harvest.
The country requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption and another 500 000 tonnes for strategic reserves.
“Mugabe was clearly unhappy and said the issue of food stocks was causing a lot of humiliation on his part,” a government source said. “Made was asked to explain the situation and reports that there were maize imports coming in from South Africa.”
Made on Wednesday admitted there were maize deliveries coming from South Africa.
“There are deliveries coming. But like we have been saying all along, we placed the orders last year. I can’t give the figures (quantity) now,” he said.
“The issue of food stocks has been discussed in cabinet meetings because it is a vital aspect. I can’t comment on reports that I might be fired,” Made said.
The Zimbabwe Independent has established that about 5 000 tonnes of maize were delivered to the Grain Marketing Board recently. Another order of 300 000 tonnes has been secured and awaits delivery.
Reports of government’s purchase of maize from outside the country to bridge the gap between this year’s harvest and consumption requirement were confirmed by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water Development, Rural Resources and Resettlement.
The committee in a report compiled after a countrywide survey said the country would only realise 571 000 tonnes of maize from local produce and imports by year-end.
According to the findings of the committee, government, which by October was still denying that it was importing maize, had in fact ordered 200 000 tonnes of the maize through South Africa.
Made misled the nation in 2002 about the food situation after he insisted there would be enough grain based on his aerial assessment.
Serious grain deficits later gripped the country, which had to make late appeals for humanitarian assistance.