HomePoliticsGovernment halt to food imports will hit towns

Government halt to food imports will hit towns

Staff Writer

AS foreign currency shortages continue to bite, government has stopped food imports, threatening disaster for many poor urban households in the new year.

dana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The Zimbabwe Independent understands that government, through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), has for the past five months not floated tenders for food imports. Food provided by donor agencies is mainly fed to people in communal areas while food imported by government is processed and sold in urban areas. It is believed Zimbabwe will run out of food by December unless fresh supplies are secured.

Information provided by aid agencies last week said government had not floated tenders to import grain. There was also no ship at sea bringing in fresh supplies. What they call the aid “pipeline” was therefore ruptured.

In its letter of appeal to donors for food assistance in July this year, the government said the country would face a deficit of 700 000 tonnes. It also indicated that it did not have the US$142 million needed to import food.

Donors this week said food shortages in January were likely to be more severe than those experienced last year due to government’s failure to import grain.

The WFP two weeks ago announced that there would be a pipeline break in food aid at the end of the year unless new donor support was secured.

Aid agencies also said government had not landed adequate stocks of maize seed for planting in the 2003/4 season.

The agencies said the GMB and the Agricultural Rural Development Authority, who were given the mandate to import seeds and other inputs, had so far managed to bring in a paltry 13 500 tonnes of fertiliser.

“The parastatals are currently negotiating with Zambia and South African seed houses,” officials in the agriculture ministry said.

“The seed will not get into the country in time for the current planting season because of the bureaucracy in government and the fact that government has no money.”

The World Food Programme last week said government had appealed to the international community to assist with maize seed imports to cover the projected deficit.

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