Parly exposes grain deficit


Itai Dzamara

GOVERNMENT’S claims that the country has realised a bumper harvest this season providing enough maize to next year’s harvest are not true, the parliamentary Portfolio Commit

tee on Lands and Agriculture has established.


The committee found through a countrywide survey on food stocks that Zimbabwe could by the end of this year have only 574 000 tonnes from local production and imports. It presented the report to parliament on Wednesday.


President Mugabe has repeatedly said the country would realise 2,4 million tonnes of maize from this year’s harvest and told donors to “look for hungrier people elsewhere”.


Government yesterday dismissed the report as inaccurate. It said farmers had not delivered all their grain to the GMB as they anticipated a poor rainy season.


The GMB has been supporting Mugabe’s claim and insisting that maize deliveries would eventually reach the claimed quantity.


However, the report says the food deficit situation is critical. A sample survey of four provinces by the committee revealed that maize harvests were only 2,3% of what had been claimed by government.


The report also states that government is importing maize contrary to denials by Agriculture minister Joseph Made.


The quantity of harvested maize combined with imports will give a total of 574 000 tonnes, which is only enough to feed the nation for three and a half months.


“Your committee failed to understand the huge gap between current deliveries to the GMB of 388 558 tonnes and the national crop forecast of 2 400 000 tonnes of maize considering the fact that the delivery peak period has gone past,” the report says.


The committee dismissed persistent claims by GMB acting chief executive officer Samuel Muvuti that more maize was still on its way to the silos.


“As at 18 October 2004, GMB had holding stocks of 351 810 tonnes and a commitment of 222 554 tonnes maize imports were yet to be delivered into the country,” the report states.


“This gives a total of 574 364 tonnes of maize. However, given the fact that the country consumes on average 158 000 tonnes of maize per month, the country therefore is likely to stock out before the next harvest in 2005.”


A sample survey in the provinces of Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North undertaken by the committee revealed that the inflows to the GMB from farmers, which reflects this year’s harvest expectations, were only 2,3% of what was claimed by government forecasts.


The committee blasted the forecasts as having been unrealistic as officials made blanket claims without considering the facts on the ground.


“Your committee observed with concern that the built-up statistics to the forecast figure of 2,4 million tonnes also included known chronic deficit areas such as Masvingo, Midlands Matabeleland North and South provinces. It was equally surprising that the national average yield of 1,5t/ha was applied across the board regardless of the climatic conditions that prevail in each of the five ecological regions in the country,” the report says.


The committee concluded that the country would have a wheat deficit of 62 000 tonnes and again described government forecasts on wheat yields as inflated.