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Renewed food crisis imminent

Dumisani Muleya/Munyaradzi Wasosa

ZIMBABWE is facing a renewed food crisis due to diminished projected crop yields and the resultant grain deficit, it was revealed yesterday.

ace=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>A report produced by Zimconsult, an independent economic and planning group, and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary for agriculture Renson Gasela, warns of poor harvests and food shortages.

Presenting the report at a press conference yesterday, Gasela said Zimbabwe at worst faced a 1,2 million tonnes grain deficit.

“Taking into account the failure of the early planted maize and the late season problems for small grains, our central estimate is production of 600 000 tonnes of maize plus 100 000 tonnes of sorghum,” Gasela said.

“Excluding strategic stocks, this would imply a shortfall of 1 200 000 tonnes.”

Gasela said it was however possible harvests could be better and thus a low grain deficit. “Our upper estimate is 800 000 tonnes of maize and 200 000 tonnes of small grains would result in a shortfall of 900 000 tonnes for the current crop year,” he said.

Gasela attributed the low yields to scarcity of seed, fertiliser, tillage, and erratic rainfall at the beginning of the season.

He also said grain shortages were a result of government’s destruction of the country’s commercial agricultural base. “There will definitely be an insufficient crop yield this season due to the government’s chaotic land reform,” Gasela said.

“The complete lack of planning, complemented by government’s corrupt awarding of commercial farms has destroyed the agriculture base.”

The seizure of seed producing farms and shortage of inputs, he said, were also responsible for the crisis.

“Many farmers were forced to restrict themselves to a small acreage due to lack of inputs,” he said.

Gasela said commercial seed farmers produced on average five tonnes of seed maize a hectare, while new farmers produce an average of 0,4 tonnes of seed maize.

This means that where only 12 000 hectares were required to produce 60 000 tonnes of seed, 150 000 hectares are now needed to produce the same amount.

The fertiliser industry, which normally produces an average of 550 000 tonnes a year, has managed to produce only 240 000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 310 000 tonnes.

“Using the commercial seed availability of 32 000 tonnes would imply no more than 1 280 000 hectares planted to maize, but the addition of retained seed and seed taken from past production might raise the total to say 40 000 tonnes, implying 1 600 000 ha being planted to maize,” he said.

“With about 30% fertiliser availability and less than 50% draught power, together with failure of the early planted maize, implies production of between 650 000 and 850 000 tonnes.”

Gasela said although there were different figures for expected yields there was no denying that there would be grain shortages. He said government was currently keeping 250 000 tonnes of grain for electoral purposes while people were starving.

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