Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
GOVERNMENT has directed the Grain Marketing Board to slash the price of maize from $23 per 50 kg bag to $15 to enable the majority of people affected by the El Nino-induced drought this year to buy the staple food. On the other hand, Government will continue distributing maize for free to vulnerable families countrywide. The country has stocks enough to feed the nation for the next three months.
It is importing more grain that is expected to arrive before available stocks run out. This was revealed by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira during a Questions without notice Session in the National Assembly yesterday.
“We are aware as Government that the price of maize at the Grain Marketing Board was high at around $23 per bag. We have asked that the price be reduced, so we agreed in Cabinet yesterday that the price must come down to $15 per bag for households. That is for households and not business.”
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Earlier in the day, Minister Mupfumira and her Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development counterpart Dr Joseph Made had assured Zanu-PF Members of Parliament who attended a party caucus at Zanu-PF Headquarters in Harare that Government had put adequate mechanisms in place to ensure no one starves.
Zanu-PF Chief Whip Cde Lovemore Matuke said the two ministers assured them that Government was now seized with distributing the food to all communities across the country. “In the reserves, the minister (Made) pointed out that we have more than 100 000 tonnes and we have got enough stock to feed people for the next three months,” he said.
“That period will also allow us to bring in more maize before we finish the existing stocks. The minister pointed out that they have raised more than $200 million to buy the grain and they have since started moving the grain to different GMB depots and we have been promised that people will not die of starvation.”
Cde Matuke said the ministers explained to the MPs that food distribution had started and would be coordinated in a way that no one is left out. “Its now confirmed we are having drought this year and part of next year. The issues were raised and the Minister of Agriculture was able to explain to the MPs on the distribution pattern of the grain and the reserves we have in GMB.
“We were getting reports from the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. “They said they are going to have committees at district level that are going to deal with distribution of food. The programme is ongoing. The MPs needed to be updated on the current situation so that they can take the same information to their constituencies.
“There is a lot of maize which is coming from abroad to ensure that everybody will be able to receive adequate food,” said Cde Matuke. President Mugabe last month declared a state of disaster to allow for mobilisation of resources to mitigate the effects of drought – induced hunger facing the country.
Government subsequently appealed for food assistance from both local and international partners to the tune of at least $1,5 billion to cater for about 3 million vulnerable people. It is understood that in some areas villagers were buying a bucket of maize for about $8.
Zimbabwe requires about 2 million tonnes of maize for livestock and human consumption annually, while the country only harvested about 700 000 tonnes last season. Efforts are being made to import more food amid reports that the number of people needing food aid has risen from 1,5 million to 3 million.