PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that Zimbabwe would be importing maize from Uganda to avert a humanitarian crisis due to grain shortages and looming hunger.
This comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday that it could reduce its assistance if it fails to get US$100 million immediately.
Zimbabwe is battling massive shortages of grain, which have hit hard the supplies of the staple maize meal across the country.
On Friday, Mnangagwa revealed that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered to supply grain to the country at the just ended 33rd Ordinary Summit of the African Union.
“A few days ago when we were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I was sitting with other heads of state.
“Museveni of Uganda says I hear you need maize in Zimbabwe. You should come and collect.
“I stood up from where I was sitting, saying do not shout. When I went to engage him, he told me he has surplus maize.
“Yesterday (Thursday) … I sent Agriculture and Lands minister Perrance Shiri to Uganda.
“Today (yesterday), he is meeting Museveni to arrange the logistics of procurement of grain to the country,” Mnangagwa told civic leaders in the second city.
The persisting drought, Mnangagwa said, had compelled the government to redirect funds meant for developmental projects towards procuring grain.
“This is our third year in drought… With this current drought, those reserves have been depleted.
“This is why we are now diverting all funds which had been targeted for capital projects to acquire and procure grain to feed the people.
“This affects the implementation of developmental projects in the country but we need people to survive,” Mnangagwa said further.
Recently, the government revealed that the country had less than 100 000 metric tonnes of grain in storage.
This is despite the fact that the nation consumes 80 000 tonnes per month.
Meanwhile, the WFP said it was running out of time to secure critical funds needed to import grain to feed nearly 8 million people facing starvation.
WFP senior official, Valerie Guarnieri — who has been in the country for a week to assess Zimbabwe’s food needs — said that her organisation had not yet secured the US$212 million needed for food assistance in the country for the next six months.
“Our overall requirement for the next six months is US$212 million.
“Within that amount, we have a shortfall of US$103 million which we need for us to scale up and continue our emergency food assistance.
“If we don’t get the money, we are going to be forced to scale down our food assistance from the 3,5 million people we are supporting in rural areas, to a lesser number, and the same goes for the urban population.
“My other concern is that we may not be able to maintain our resilience programmes and that will be unfortunate because what we want to achieve through these programmes is to enable food insecure households to have income-generating projects so that they can be self-dependent in the long run,” Guarnieri said.
She also revealed that the WFP was targeting importing 200 000 metric tonnes of food to support the country for the next six months.
“This is a lot of work which requires funds to buy the 200 000 metric tonnes of food and to fund the trucks that will move the food through different corridors into the country.
“This is something that needs to be working like a very well-oiled machine if we are going to meet that demand,” she said further.