Augustine Mukaro/Eric Chiriga
IN a desperate move to cover up huge food deficits likely to hit the country at the beginning of next year, government has landed 14 550 tonnes of maize and wheat through South
Africa, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
Information provided by South African Grain Information Services (Sagis) shows that between November and last week government brought into the country 8 408 tonnes of maize and 6 142 tonnes of wheat. The wheat is from Argentina.
Sources at the Grain Marketing Board and Sagis said last month government submitted orders for the purchase of about 300 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa to cover the deficit at the beginning of 2005.
Sagis said South African maize exports had risen to a five-week high last week because of demand from Zimbabwe.
“Last week South Africa shipped 5 060 tonnes of white maize to Zimbabwe,” Sagis said. “In the week before Zimbabwe had imported 6 530 tonnes of maize from South Africa.”
GMB chief executive Samuel Muvuti on Tuesday confirmed that his organisation was importing maize.
“The issue of importing grain has been unnecessarily made newsworthy by some sections of the media,” Muvuti said. “Actually we should be applauded for importing maize. A lot of countries are importing maize.”
Muvuti was addressing journalists during a GMB media reception dinner in Harare. Earlier on Muvuti had insisted that the grain being brought into the country was ordered during drought periods.
Sources said government was secretly buying maize from South Africa through a US$700 million credit line extended by US firm Sentry Financial International and giant tobacco dealer, Dimon Incorporated, in July.
The first order of white maize sourced under the deal landed in Bulawayo in August from South Africa. The quantities involved in the whole deal could not be ascertained at the time of going to press.
Sources in Bulawayo said rail wagons belonging to Spoornet, South Africa’s state-owned rail service, were moving the white maize to GMB silos.
The landed cost of maize from South Africa is estimated to be US$185 per tonne.
It is believed that a United States firm will source about 200 000 tonnes of white maize from South Africa’s Free State province.
Zimbabwe requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption plus 500 000 tonnes for strategic reserves. Government has until recently insisted that there was a bumper maize harvest of 2,4 million tonnes. A parliamentary portfolio committee on lands and agriculture exposed this to be untrue.