ZIMBABWE, which requires 1,8 million tonnes of the staple maize crop annually, is expecting only 800 000 tonnes from local production with the remaining
million tonnes to be imported from Malawi , government officials have said.
The country also has a wheat deficit of 255 130 tonnes as it expects 144 870 from the winter wheat season production which was badly affected by power outages and lack of coordination by government and other players in the sector, according to a parliamentary report.
A total of 480 000 tonnes of wheat is required annually. The country is experiencing a critical shortage of bread and maize meal, with the latter being felt more in the southern parts of the country which are further away from the Mutoko, Kotwa, Murehwa and Marondera depots which are receiving imports from Malawi.
At least 3,3 million people are in need of food aid, according to World Food Programme estimates while government estimates that 600 000 families require food aid. Government allocated an additional $800 billion for the purchase of maize by GMB from local farmers as well as for imports under the 2007 supplementary budget and the WFP says it is mobilising US$97 million to meet the country’s food needs.
Giving oral evidence on the country’s food security to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Land and Agriculture last week, Agriculture permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka and Grain Marketing Board acting chief executive Samuel Muvuti said government had stepped up imports of the two products.
However, they said distribution was being hampered by the unavailability of fuel for road and rail transport, the poor state of roads and distance from receiving depots to numerous distribution centres nationwide. Masoka said maize imports from Malawi were by road and transporters were at times reluctant to use some routes due to the poor state of roads while they also intermittently experienced fuel problems back in Malawi .
He pointed out that out of the 800 000 tonnes expected from local production, the GMB was expecting to receive 220 000 tonnes as the rest would be retained by farmers and families for subsistence use.
Muvuti told the committee that the speedy collection of local grain was also being affected by the unavailability of grain bags which had to be imported.
He revealed that the GMB owed a South African company US$1 million for grain bag imports as a local company, Grain Bag, had limited capacity although it was reported to be exporting some.
“So far we have imported 400 000 tonnes of maize from Malawi and we need to import 200 000 tonnes. A total of 260 000 tonnes has already been consumed and we need to import 260 000 tonnes which is yet to be contracted as we are still mobilising foreign currency.”
Commenting on current stocks, Muvuti said as of September 24,GMB had received 164 562 tonnes from local producers comprising small scale farmers and the corporate sector including Delta, National Foods and Crest Breeders all involved in contract farming.
He said he expected deliveries to improve following the maize delivery bonus of $11,4 million per tonne (bagged) announced by central bank governor Gideon Gono in his mid-term monetary policy statement last week.