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Imports cushion food deficit

Augustine Mukaro

GOVERNMENT imported nearly a million tonnes of maize and wheat from South Africa over the past year in a desperate move to cover up huge food deficits likely to hit the country before the 2006/7 harvest.

In its latest report for July, the

US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), said Zimbabwe imported more than 900 000 tonnes of maize to close the food deficit gap for that period. 

Data gleaned by the organisation from the South African Grain Information Services (Sagis) indicate the importation was carried out during the period April 2005 to March 2006.

“Commercial and food aid maize imports from South Africa to Zimbabwe continued in February and March 2006,” the report said. 

“According to Sagis, 114 292 tonnes of maize were exported to Zimbabwe between February 10 and March 31, 2006, bringing the cumulative official maize exports to Zimbabwe to 993 472 tonnes for the period April 2, 2005 to March 31, 2006.  This represents about 93% of the total maize gap estimated at the beginning of the 2005/6 consumption year.”

Fewsnet said Zimbabwe would harvest about 135 000 tonnes of wheat, an increase from last year’s 120 000 tonnes. The harvest still falls short, as it will be enough to cover only about 34% of the country’s requirements.

“Wheat production for 2006 is expected to be about 135 000 tonnes, which is 13% higher than the 2005 production level of about 120 000 tonnes,” Fewsnet reports says.

“The 2006 production still falls far short of national requirements estimated to be around 400 000 tonnes.”            
The food monitoring international agency also warned that rising costs of food would impact negatively on the food security situation of most households in the country.

It said while the  national level of cereal availability seemed satisfactory, sub-national and household level food availability was going to be heavily dependent on the efficiency and effectiveness of sub-national grain redistribution systems and the purchasing power of deficit and non-food producing households. 

Fewsnet said: “Projected cereal deficit of about 22% for the 2006/7 marketing year is concentrated in the southern districts as well as the western and eastern margins of the country.”

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