THE United Kingdom (UK) government has partnered with Zimbabwe’s commercial grain traders through a facility to assist in importing 55 000 metric tonnes of white maize to sell on an open market to avert a food crisis as the country faces its worst drought in two decades coupled with a debilitating cash crisis.
By Hazel Ndebele
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent today, Head of the Department for International Development (DFID) Zimbabwe, an arm of the UK government Annabel Gerry said the Grain Market facility is designed to enable reputable commercial grain traders to import maize more easily for Zimbabwe following the cash crisis.
“Given the cash crisis in Zimbabwe, the private sector is struggling to pay for grain imports which could lead to maize shortages. The facility is designed to work outside government systems,” she said on the sidelines of a cross political women’s dialogue organised by the UK government at the British Ambassador’s residence.
“Following a robust tender process, selected commercial grain traders are able to import maize, increasing local availability and thus enabling the poor to buy maize at an affordable price.”
Gerry said DFID is neither purchasing nor distributing maize through the Grain Market facility but giving cash through electronic tranfers to vulnerable households.
“The improved supply of maize, especially in rural areas, reduces the potential for politicisation of food aid and complements DFID’s humanitarian electronic cash transfers which are reaching 360 000 people in 15 districts,” she said.
Gerry said the facility was not meant for government but a partnership with the private sector which is being assisted with funds to import maize so as to avert drought.
“The UK is very concerned about the politicisation of food aid and has raised this repeatedly with the government both with responsible line Ministries and in United Nations/government of Zimbabwe led fora on the need to uphold humanitarian principles which are humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence,” she said.
The El Nino induced drought has led to a serious surge in food insecurity and hunger affecting 40 million people across the southern Africa region and Zimbabwe is one of the countries most affected with 4,4 million rural dwellers and 1,1 urban dwellers needing food assistance.
The DFID recently announced that the total contribution for humanitarian assistance by the Government of the UK has now reached £55,6 million (US$73 million).
Find the full interview with Gerry in the next edition of the Zimbabwe Independent.