THE Southern African region, Zimbabwe included, is facing El-Nino-induced drought this year and many regional countries have started putting in place measures to avert hunger.
With the whole region facing the worst drought in more than a decade, there is no guarantee of getting grain supplies from regional countries since we are in similar situations.
In Zimbabwe, the situation is still under control for the next six to seven months.
However, collaborative efforts by the Government and private sector in coming up with measures to ensure uninterrupted maize supply and availability should be applauded.
Two weeks ago, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr John Mangudya said the Government had secured $200 million lines of credit to import grain and assured the nation not to panic.
His announcement came a few days after Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made said more import licences would be issued to private importers to ensure the country has enough food.
Indications are that seven grain dealers would be granted permits to import maize from across America and Eastern Europe.
A total of two million tonnes will be imported over the next two years.
The arrangement calls for fast and convenient ways of importing the grain within the targeted timeframes to allow for continuous supplies and availability in the country.
Any disruptions to the logistical processes may cause shortages and distortions to pricing and this will seriously affect the vulnerable groups such as people in outlying areas.
If this happens, this will be contrary to Government’s and every caring Zimbabwean’s desire that no one should starve nor die from hunger despite potential severity of drought.
In light of this, it is heartening to learn that the Government and the private sector have been pro-active in making sure there will be consistent supply and availability of grain.
Ensuring flawless procurement, transportation and distribution process will be critical for timely delivery of imported grain considering some of the maize will come from as far afield as Brazil and Mexico in South America, North America and Eastern Europe.
According to the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, the Mozambican Rail and Ports Authority has guaranteed a 10-day turnaround and lower tariffs for grain destined for Zimbabwe.
The development is meant to ensure availability of grain on the market and stabilise prices.
This follows a successful meeting between the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Caminos de Macambique, Government officials, logistics firms and grain importers.
In terms of the agreement, maize shipments destined for Zimbabwe will be transported through Maputo for the southern region and will come into the country via Chicuala or Sango Border Posts while Beira Border Post will be an entry point for grain to eastern and northern parts of the country.
This will lower distribution costs and help keep the price of grain, maize meal and related products affordable.
It is our fervent hope this arrangement will benefit all Zimbabweans and keep hunger at bay.
Meanwhile, we call upon the Government to plug any potential loopholes for profiteering by unscrupulous business people, which could put undesirable pressure on food prices.