Govt must lift GMO grain ban to avert shortage –– millers

THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe has advised government to lift a ban on genetically-modified grain amid a looming shortage.

The projected low grain yield has over the past few weeks seen Agriculture minister Joseph Made blaming treasury for poor planning for the 2009/10 agricultural season. 
Tafadzwa Musarara, chairman of the millers’ organisation, yesterday told the Zimbabwe Independent that the dry spell and lack of fertilisers threatening the cropping season required government to make a policy shift on genetically-modified grain to boost the country’s grain reserves.
Government, according to Musarara, bars importers from buying genetically modified grain.
He said a “skewed policy” on imported genetically-modified grain exposes local producers to “unfair competition” from cheap imported products.
“Government and private sector should engage each other and come up with a plan to boost grain reserves this season,” Musarara said
“We have a skewed GMO policy in this country. They (government) allow imported maize meal in this country yet GMO grain is not allowed. That has to be harmonised.”
Government is expected to announce maize projections for the current season next March but hopes of meeting the 1,8 million metric tonnes required annually appear slim despite an increased hectarage under the maize crop.
Official figures state that farmers grew one million ha of maize compared to 900 000 ha planted last year that produced for 500 000 metric tonnes.
The Zimbabwe Farmers Union fears that the inconsistent rainfall affecting the southern parts of the country could result in a 60% loss in planted crop. The ZFU also said farmers had limited chances of improving their crop through replanting.
The union said farmers, however, could still grow small grain crops such as soya beans and sunflower.
With the Grain Marketing Board selling a tonne of maize at US$300, Musarara said millers were likely to import from South Africa, which is expecting a higher yield and selling at US$280 per tonne.
“We are not saying we will have a poor season as such but we are making frantic efforts to import grain under the collateral management agreement,” Musarara said.

Bernard Mpofu

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