Ironically, Zambia used to import maize from Zimbabwe, but has recorded a surplus in the last two seasons having profited from the influx of white commercial farmers displaced by its southern neighbour’s controversial land reform programme.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made has admitted Zimbabwe would have a deficit of about one million tonnes, which has to be covered by imports from countries like Zambia.
“About 45% of the maize that was planted this season is a write-off,” said Made recently. “Last season, 333 637 hectares of maize were written off. This year, the hectarage written off rose to 722 557, an increase of 117%.”
The Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) said on Monday the Food Reserve Agency had begun destroying the huge stockpiles of rotting maize in a bid to create space for this year’s harvest from June 1.
“Over 102 tonnes of rotten and discoloured maize is expected to be burnt in the presence of the district authorities. Lombelombe is one such depot with 415,1 tonnes of maize on makeshift storage facilities made of pole,” ZNFU said.
ZNFU’s head of outreach and member services Coillard Hamusimbi told the Zimbabwe Independent through an email on Wednesday his country produced 2,853 million metric tonnes of maize this year with 1,035 million metric tonnes as surplus. Last year Zambia produced a record three million metric tonnes.
“Zambia exported and hopes to continue exporting to the DRC, Namibia, Kenya and South Sudan in addition to Zimbabwe,” Hamusimbi said.
He also confirmed former Zimbabwean commercial farmers who were displaced by the land reform programme were helping Zambia’s phenomenal agricultural growth.
Hamusimbi said his country’s “new” farmers engaged in diversified production of tobacco, maize, wheat and soya crops.
Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs described Zimbabwe’s maize deficit as a “deplorable state of affairs” which, however, could still be reversed by adopting “investor-friendly policies guaranteeing security of tenure to farmers”.
“Right now the land is of no value and we are in a spiral of diminishing returns, thanks to the land reform programme which pushed farmers off their land,” said Taffs. “Factor in the indigenisation policy and you have self-inflicted harm. lt is time to stop this,” he said.