Private millers import 50 000t of maize

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© IN a move to avert a food crisis, private grain millers are importing 50 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa, complementing the government and international donors’ efforts, to save eight million people from starvation.
This comes at a time when the World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking US$200 million in emergency aid to feed the eight million people between now and April. The WFP described the Zimbabwe situation as desperate, and disclosed that 2,2 million of the people in need of food were in urban areas.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz), which represents over 90 private millers in the country, yesterday told the Daily News that they would import the 50 000 tonnes of maize using free funds.
“We are bringing in the first batch of 50 000 tonnes from South Africa in two weeks.
“We are currently engaging the suppliers and making logistical arrangements and this maize will complement what the Grain Marketing Board has.
“This is possible because government in November allowed us to import grain. These are private imports by Gmaz and we are using free funds,” Gmaz spokesperson Garikai Chaunza said.
He said they would import more maize from Mexico.
Zimbabwe needs 800 000 tonnes of maize to avert a food crisis.
In November last year, the government lifted the ban on grain imports, allowing individuals and corporates with free funds to import maize to complement Treasury’s efforts in ensuring adequate national grain reserves.
On its part, the government says it would continue allocating more money to maize imports to plug the grain deficit and in September last year alone, Treasury spent up to US$4 million.
The maize imports that month included 17 000 tonnes from Tanzania.
As part of efforts to boost maize availability, the government also extended targeted subsidies for roller meal to millers to ensure that prices are affordable for ordinary people. The subsidised roller meal costs $50 per 10kg.
However, most supermarkets are yet to start selling the subsidised roller meal, which is currently retailing at around $110.
WFP spokesperson Gerry Bourke recently said the food situation in the country had become desperate.
“It’s a very, very grim situation. In fact, it’s a national catastrophe, nothing short of that. Eight million people — half the population — are on the brink of starvation, literally not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
“So many families desperate … struggling. They are skipping meals … taking their kids out of school … selling off what little they have by way of precious belongings, family assets. Malnutrition rates are rising. So it’s an absolute disaster,” Bourke told American media.
He attributed the looming famine and food shortages to both the drought ravaging the region and Zimbabwe’s crumbling economy.
“Well, there are two principal contributing factors. One is climate change. Zimbabwe, like much of the rest of southern Africa, has had one normal rainy season in the last five years. The other is an economy in free-fall — absolute economic meltdown. Hyper-inflation is a huge problem. So Zimbabweans are hurting in so many ways. There is very limited local currency available, so Zimbabweans who we support are telling us, please give us food … don’t give us cash because cash becomes devalued so quickly,” Bourke said further.

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