Melody Mashaire Herald Reporter
GOVERNMENT has taken delivery of over 500 000 tonnes of grain, almost half of the country’s requirement until December. The country needs slightly over 1,3 million tonnes of maize until the end of the year, and true to President Mugabe’s undertaking that no one would starve, 526 802 tonnes has already been imported.
In a presentation made during a drought stakeholder meeting at a local hotel, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mr Ringson Chitsiko said that contracts had already been signed with private companies for the importation of the remaining grain.
“The target for the Importation Programme (February to December 2016) is 1 361 452 metric tonnes ($560 918 224) and to date 526 802 metric tonnes have been imported,” Mr Chitsiko said, in a presentation that was made on his behalf by the director of agricultural economics and markets in the ministry, Mr Clemence Taderera.
“Contracts for maize importation for 630 000 metric tonnes were signed between the Grain Marketing Board and private players. Of these contracts, a total of 129 000 metric tonnes of grain have been delivered,” he said.
According to the agriculture ministry, the target for next year — January to March 2017 — requires a total of 450 000 tonnes valued at an estimated cost of $185 292 000.
Mr Taderera said a total of 91 327 metric tonnes were available in the Strategic Grain Reserve and 63 000 tonnes have already been distributed to various districts under the drought mitigation programme.
“Permits with a total of 2,2 million metric tonnes of maize grain were issued against imports of 526 802 metric tonnes as at 31 January 2016,” he said.
Recently, Government mobilised $260 million to import grain as part of its efforts to avert hunger, as a serious drought caused by El Nino weather pattern engulfs Southern Africa.
The most affected areas by the drought were Matabeleland South, parts of Midlands, Masvingo and southern parts of Manicaland.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently announced that crop and livestock production prospects in Southern Africa had been weakened by the El Nino weather phenomenon that lowered rains and increased temperatures.
A special alert released by FAO Global Information and Early Warning System recently indicated that reduced agricultural output would follow on the last disappointing season, which had already contributed to higher food prices and could acutely impact on the food security situation in 2016.