HARARE - For years, Zimbabwe has faced the challenge of food insecurity at both national and household level.
Local production has fallen due to a range of factors, from poor weather to the recession in the Zimbabwean economy.
Government has tried to deal with the situation by importing food from South Africa and Zambia as well as accepting food aid from donors.
But the move to reinstate the monopoly of GMB and in the process completely cutting out participation of the private sector in the trade of these goods is retrogressive.
Elsewhere in this publication, we carry a story on the horrors we are likely to face as a result of reinstating the GMB monopoly.
Millers are already warning that the price of a 10 kg bag of roller meal will be pushed up by 12 percent from the current price of $6,41 to $7,13.
Crucially, the government’s move to stop granting permits has left millers in a tight spot as they had pre-paid for maize imports from the region. Who is going to cut the losses for millers?
This policy will prevent the development of an effective private sector food market and, hence, reduced incentives for farmers to produce food and store it.
Due to decrease in local production, the government through the GMB, has had to import maize to meet local demand.
It’s not secret that the GMB and government have not been successful in importing sufficient quantities of grain to meet the deficit.
Thus supplies will be intermittent and a parallel market for maize will emerge soon.
The reinstatement of the monopoly by GMB will also restrict the commercial imports of food grains at a time when the board and the government have limited capacities to import sufficient grain.
We urge government to rethink this policy and relax food import restrictions to allow some NGOs and private traders to import limited amounts of grain. The majority of imports may still come through the GMB.
No doubt, the GMB has a significant role to play in ensuring that the food requirements of poor households are met and the State should intervene in times of crisis, but we should also be alive to the fact that the GMB has continued to be underfunded and inappropriately constituted for it to play a more meaningful role in household food security.
At national level, it has failed to ensure innovative procurement methods and management of a strategic grain reserve.
The restriction in the marketing and distribution of food grains amidst the shortage of food grains on the market will create a parallel market especially for maize grain and mealie meal. This situation impacts more on poor households which may not even be able to afford or access maize.
The government’s effective prohibition of private imports of maize will contribute to food shortages by limiting the amount of food available on the market. That’s hardly a good policy.