Zim imports maize to address deficit

HARARE - Zimbabwe has so far imported about 300 000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of maize as the country battles to plug a 2,5 million tonne cereal deficit, President Robert Mugabe said.

Mugabe last week said of the total, 25 000MT had been imported by the private sector as local farmers have delivered close to 200 000MT to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), as government moves to feed an estimated five million hunger insecure Zimbabweans.

“My government is importing grain in order to address the grain deficit caused by the devastating effects of the recent drought.

“To date, government has imported over 300 000MT of maize, while about 200 000MT have been delivered to the GMB depots by our farmers…Add to this the amount of $360 million for grain importation pledged by our development partners…,” Mugabe said.

Outlining agricultural preparation plans for the 2017/18 agricultural season, Mugabe pointed out that he was rolling out his Presidential Inputs Support System to support 800 000 communal farmers.

“Government has also introduced the Command Agriculture Special Maize and Small Grains Production Programmes targeting a minimum of two million tonnes of maize from both irrigable and dry land farms among A1, A2 and small holder farmers,” he said.

On the back of the El Nino- induced drought, Zimbabwe has turned to Zambia and other neighbouring countries for exports as the 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.

The United Nations World Food Programme has said Zimbabwe’s output slumped below 60 percent of its five-year average of between 700 000 and one million tonnes.

According to Agriculture minister, Joseph Made, government imported between 500 000 and 700 000 tonnes of maize between April and September with additional quantities being imported by the private sector from Mexico.

In February, Mugabe declared the 2015/16 agricultural season a national disaster.

Last year, government imported 100 000 tonnes after Zimbabwe 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.

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