Drought mitigation gobbles US$162m on grain imports

07 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Drought mitigation gobbles  US$162m on grain imports

eBusiness Weekly

Tapiwanashe Mangwiro

Zimbabwe has ramped up maize imports amid the effects of a devastating drought which has seen expected harvests drop by 72 percent year-on-year.

The Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat) April 2024 trade figures show that the country has imported maize worth US$161,99 million in the four months of 2024, which is 281,15 percent more than the US$42,5 million spent in the same period in 2023.

According to recent reports from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, the country anticipates harvesting only 634 669 tonnes of maize, marking a staggering 72 percent drop from the previous season’s yield.

This shortfall comes at a time when Zimbabwe requires 2,2 million tonnes of maize annually to meet both human and livestock consumption needs, painting a grim picture of food security.

Latest official statistics indicate that 6 million people in communal areas and 1,7 million in cities and towns require food assistance,and following the declaration of a State of Disaster by President Mnangagwa, resources are being pooled together, by the Government and private sector, to ensure that no one starves.

Such a dire situation stems from consecutive years of poor harvests, with the 2021/22 season’s maize production plummeting to 1,56 million tonnes, a sharp 43 percent decline from the previous season’s multi-year record of 2,72 million tonnes.

This significant drop underscores the extent of the agricultural crisis facing the nation, with implications stretching far beyond domestic borders.

According to Grain SA, for the 2023/24 selling season which ended in April, the country bought 328 714 tonnes from South Africa of both white and yellow maize, for both human and livestock consumption.

In the current 2024/25 selling season which began on May 1, 2024, the country bought 30 196 tonnes of white maize and 14 379 tonnes of yellow maize as at May 23, 2024.

Efforts to get comments from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development were futile as they are out of the country, but grain stock at the GMB as at May 9, 2024 stood at 423 779 tonnes with maize seating at 267 081 tonnes.

Presenting a post Cabinet media briefing last week, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere said the country has enough grain stocks.

“The nation is also informed that the Government has solid strategies and measures for drought mitigation and resilience building. There are adequate grain stocks in the Strategic Grain Reserve to last until year end,” he said.

Dr Muswere said the Government will import 300 000 tonnes of maize, whole grain movement from areas with surplus to areas with deficit will be facilitated by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

The private sector is expected to import all the stockfeed requirements of 400 000 tonnes, and urban maize requirements of up to 450 000 tonnes by March 2025.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) plans to import 1,4 million tonnes of maize from countries including Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.

GMAZ chairman Dr. Tafadzwa Musarara announced that the maize is expected to be imported between May and July 30, 2024, using various entry points into the country.

He stated, “We are aiming to bring in 1,4 million tonnes of maize between now and July 30, 2024, utilising all our frontiers. Beira port will dock maize shipments for the Eastern and Northern parts of the country.

“Maputo will dock shipments into the Southern region of the country via Chicualacualla, and Durban will dock shipments into both the Southern and Northern regions. Plumtree and Beitbridge will continue to provide gateway and expedited services for maize from South Africa. We will be increasing our source countries to about 5, including Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Argentina, and America.”

Dr. Musarara also mentioned that a GMAZ delegation had travelled to Brazil to negotiate and finalise supply agreements for both white and yellow maize, as well as rice.

He said, “A GMAZ delegation is in Sao Paulo and meeting members of the Associação Nacional dos Exportadores de Cereais (Brazilian Grain Exporters Association) to negotiate and conclude supply agreements of maize (White and Yellow) and rice.”

Agronomist Anderson Magura believes that the underutilised dams represent an untapped asset that can significantly boost agricultural productivity.

“Channelling investments into irrigation infrastructure can create jobs, stimulate economic activity, and increase agricultural output, thereby enhancing food security is a priority as well as offering financial incentives for private investments in irrigation projects can attract capital, fostering public-private collaboration in developing these essential systems,” he said.

Economist Gladys Shumbambiri-Mutsopotsi applauded the collaborative efforts for comprehensive coverage being done to ensure nationwide food security by government and private sector.

“Government must focus on providing free meals and food giveaways to the most vulnerable populations, especially in rural areas. It should also develop policies that support agricultural resilience, such as subsidies for drought-resistant seeds and irrigation equipment,” she said.

According to the economist, the private sector should manage the supply of maize for urban areas and livestock feed, ensuring a steady flow to maintain market stability.

By working together, the government and private sector can create a resilient and efficient food supply chain that mitigates the impact of droughts and secures Zimbabwe’s food future.

Share This:

Sponsored Links