Zim needs U$264m for grain imports — CFU

ZIMBABWE will need about US$264 million to import about 800 000 tonnes of maize and 339 000 tonnes of wheat to meet the annual national requirement, a union representing commercial farmers said on  Wednesday.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Deon Theron says preliminary figures show Zimbabwe will have to import about 800 000 tonnes of maize to meet national demand.

“About 800 000 tonnes of maize is needed for consumption. Maize is being imported at between US$160 and US$180 per tonne,” Theron said.
The national maize consumption requirement stands at two million tonnes per annum but Theron sees maize output this year at 1,3 million tonnes, a deficit of about 800 000 tonnes.

Wheat is Zimbabwe’s second staple grain, after maize but the country has failed to meet its annual consumption requirements of between 350 000 tonnes.

This year’s national wheat target was set at 60 000 hectares but farmers planted only 11 000 hectares. Theron said Zimbabwe needed to import wheat worth over US$128,8 million to meet an expected shortfall of 339 000 tonnes, which could cripple operations.

Farmers, hamstrung by lack of capital, high costs of inputs and continued land ownership wrangles, expect to produce 11 000 tonnes of winter wheat planted on 3 100 hectares this year.

This is against a national annual demand of 350 000 tonnes, said CFU President Deon Theron.
“We (Zimbabwe) will have to import the wheat at an import price of US$380 per tonne and this translates to US$128 820 000, given our shortfall,” said Theron.

This would be the ninth consecutive year that the country would be importing maize and wheat.
“Regarding loans, most farmers do not have anything to offer as security and this is worsened by the liquidity problems affecting the country in general,” said Theron.

Most resettled farmers who previously benefitted from subsidised inputs have failed to raise money to buy essentials such as seed, fertiliser, chemicals and fuel to power generators in the face of crippling electricity cuts by power company, Zesa Holdings

The United Nations on Tuesday said Zimbabwe’s food production rose from 1,2 million tonnes to 1,3 million tonnes.
Jacopo D’Amelio, a regional information co-ordinator with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “There is also a feeling that the food security situation is improving from what it was in 2008, when the country had probably its worst output.”

Relief agencies say combined donor support to small farmers accounted for up to 20% of Zimbabwe’s maize output of 1,3-million tonnes in the 2009-10 season.

Separately, the US Agency for International Development’s famine early-warning systems network cautioned in a recent report that Zimbabwe’s dry regions would need food toward the end of this year.

“Although Zimbabwe’s 2010 maize harvest is likely to fall short of 2009 output, the country is more secure in its food supplies than it was last year due to a stirring economy and grain market liberalization,” fewsnet said.

The fewsnet report said maize and other staple foods were readily available and maize prices had come down from last year, particularly in areas that had good harvests and due to the emergence of a free cereals market under the country’s unity government.

In his mid- term fiscal policy announced two weeks ago, Finance minister Tendai Biti, said agricultural growth of 18,8% in 2010, up on last year’s 14,9% was expected. 

“This is mainly driven by tobacco, up 67,3% from 55,6 million kgs in 2009 to 93 million kgs; maize, up 3% from 1,24 million tonnes to 1,33 million tonnes; and beef up 2% from 93 000 tonnes to 95 000 tonnes,” he said.

Paul Nyakazeya