HARARE – The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has collected 35 000 metric tonnes (mt) of maize from local farmers as the country battles to plug a 2,5 million tonne cereal deficit, a Cabinet minister has said.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made last week told the National Assembly that local farmers had since delivered 35 000mt to the national grain collection and reserve agency, amid indications that the country’s meagre 2016 maize grain harvest will last three months.
“As we are talking, where we had not expected any grain at all due to the drought, farmers have already delivered, updating the figure that I reported on in the media. We are now close to 35 000 mt
“On top of that, government is paying through GMB all the farmers that are delivering the maize,” he said.
The minister said Zimbabwe continues to import maize to plug the El Nino-induced deficit the country is presently experiencing.
“The private sector is also importing mainly as millers for the urban areas — but I would also want to indicate that our farmers locally are also delivering to the GMB,” the minister said.
Due to the low harvest, Zimbabwe has turned to Zambia for imports as Zambia’s crop forecasting survey revealed that the country would record an increased maize harvest of 2,8 million tonnes, from 2,6 million tonnes last year. With a carryover stock amounting to 667 524 tonnes as at May 1, 2016, Zambia has a total of 3,5 million tonnes of maize in stock.
The United Nations World Food Programme has said Zimbabwe’s output is expected to slump below 60 percent of the five-year average of between 700 000 and one million tonnes.
According to Made, government had planned to import between 500 000 and 700 000 tonnes of maize between April and September with additional quantities reportedly being imported by the private sector from Mexico.
In February, President Robert Mugabe declared the 2015/2016 agricultural season a national disaster.
This comes as the country secured a $200 million loan facility from the Afrexim Bank for maize imports to avert hunger.
Last year, government imported 100 000 tonnes as of November 2015, after the country received less than three quarters of its rainfall needs in November and December, the first and crucial two months of the agricultural season.
In his 2016 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had forecasted that the agricultural sector was going to grow by 1,8 percent, a figure analysts said was impractical.
Generating 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP, agriculture is vital to the Zimbabwean economy as close to 70 percent of the population survives on subsistence farming.
Private millers have been given permits to import 1,2 million tonnes of maize in the past 12 months but they have only imported 450 000 tonnes on the back of capacity constrains.