BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has revealed that it is currently working on signing a memorandum of understanding with a local company in a bid to fund contract farming and cut maize and wheat import bills.
Zimbabwe’s maize harvest is forecast to reach 2,8 million tonnes in 2021, increasing by more than 300% from the 900 000 tonnes last year.
The country has received high rainfall, which is expected to increase output during the 2020/21 production season.
About 1,8 million tonnes of grain would be purchased by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
However, GMAZ general manager Garikai Chaunza told businessdigest this week that it was premature to divulge the contractor.
“We are targeting to invest in contract farming, especially for maize and wheat. We are currently working on a joint venture with a local reputable company which is into farming and agriculture businesses,” he said.
“We are confident that this will help reduce the costs,” he said.
“We want to help the government to reduce the import bill for wheat and maize and this will save the country more than US$200 million. We are working on wheat imports to complement the local wheat and help increase production capacity which remains low due to Covid-19,” Chaunza said.
Last year the milling industry reported that the industry’s capacity utilisation dropped below 20% as maize and flour imports flourished, piling pressure on local producers.
According to GMAZ, the domestic milling sector’s capacity utilisation was slightly above 40% owing to Covid-19 and non-availability of maize.
Chaunza urged the government to stop mealie-meal and maize imports, as the country was expecting a bumper harvest.
Dam levels have reached record levels.
By March 1, 2021 the national average dam level was estimated at 95,9%. It is said to be the highest increase since 1980.
Improved rainfall has brought much-needed relief to the country following two consecutive years of devastating droughts, which lowered maize harvests.
Failure to meet the national consumption targets led to a maize shortage in the country. Zimbabwe has in the past years been importing maize from countries like South Africa and Tanzania.
In 2019, the country imported US$26,7 million worth of maize. About US$ 9,2 million worth of maize was purchased from South Africa. Zimbabwe was South Africa’s largest maize market in 2020, purchasing a value of US$ 134,7 million during the period.