HARARE - The much-hyped maize import deal between South Africa and Zimbabwe might be threatened by estimates that the neighbouring country’s harvest could be insufficient to meet its national demands.
According to South Africa’s Department of Agriculture Crop Estimates Committee figures, the country’s maize harvest last year declined by 20 percent from prior year, the smallest since 2007, after the country’s main growing regions did not receive sufficient rain for crops to grow during the planting period.
South Africa’s projected crop deficit has seen maize prices jump to record levels, the highest level in the least 17 years, a position that might also impact on the cash-strapped Zimbabwean government buying price.
Grain SA, a grouping of commercial farmers in South Africa, estimate maize prices to surge by as much as 27 percent if the drought-stricken North West province does not get more rain to enable farmers to plant.
“Prices can easily go higher, depending on how difficult it is to secure stocks. South Africa will basically be running out of maize by end-March,” Brink van Wyk, a trader at commodity trader BVG (Pty) Ltd told South African media.
This comes as Zimbabwe plans to import 150 000 tonnes of maize from its neighbour to alleviate projected food shortages attributed to drought and a poor harvest.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates, the country faces its worst famine since 2009 with an estimated 2,2 million people living in the rural areas requiring urgent food assistance.
The South African imports will add to another 150 000 tonnes ordered from Zambia at a cost of more than $25 million.
The deal, however, also hangs in the balance after Zambia’s President Michael Sata is reported to have demanded cash for grain, backtracking on an earlier promise to deliver the grain on credit.
Zimbabwe according to government figures has 30 000 tonnes of maize in its strategic grain reserve and requires about two million tonnes annually.
The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), says absence of security of land tenure will continue to provide a challenge for indigenous small scale farmers to contribute to the agriculture sectors growth.
“Newly-resettled farmers are not able to use the inherent value in their land as collateral to borrow from banks which is traditional the case in most countries. Most of the country’s farmers were given land by government on the basis of 99-year leases and depend mainly on government and donors for inputs, and other farming requirements,” CFU president Charles Taffs said.