Covid-19 hits wheat imports

HARRIET CHIKANDIWA

ZIMBABWE’s milling companies have been hit by Covid-19 induced delays to wheat deliveries from the international markets, which have triggered a wave of price hikes on the commodity, according to the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ).

Millers import wheat from several countries around the world including Russia, Canada and Germany, which are all under Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

GMAZ said this week lockdowns had caused delays in the arrivals of ships ferrying wheat containers, while many shipping firms had scaled down operations.

Cargo volumes have been affected by worldwide factory closures, and industrial output has been falling.

Delays to delivering cargo come with added costs.

In addition to delays, millers said wheat prices had also increased to US$450 per tonne currently, from $415 before the pandemic hit the world at the end of 2019.

Experts say to end an impending world food crisis, governments must consider subsidies on wheat and related products.

However, GMAZ president Tafadzwa Musarara told reporters that several initiatives that are underway in Zimbabwe would help the country avoid wheat shortages.

“This predicament is with us as well but we are grateful to command agriculture which is giving us 200 000 tonnes of wheat, which is 50% of our national requirement and this is going to save forex,” Musarara.

“Together with the Ministry of Agriculture, the cabinet committee on grain mobilisation and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, we are monitoring and managing the situation. What we can confidently say is that we are food secure,” he said.

“We have a firm wheat supply pipeline where we are importing the cereal for two main reasons which are, to cover for the deficit arriving from local wheat production so that we meet the 400 000 tonne national requirement and the second reason being that of enhancing the quality of bread flour,” said the GMAZ boss.

Zimbabwe requires 400 000 tonnes of wheat per year.

The country has been managing to produce half of its national requirements since the turn of the millennium when Harare displaced former white commercial farmers from productive land.

Since then, the country has been importing wheat and maize, which it used to export regionally and across the world.