|Editorial Comment: Food deficit: Rethink whole approach to grain distribution|
|Monday, 30 April 2012 00:00|
It would therefore make sense to have part of our strategic grain reserve kept in the food deficit areas to avoid last minute hassles in moving the grain.
We are aware that most of the silos are in the surplus producing areas but they ought to be another way of storing grain even in bags in the affected areas.
Last week, Cabinet directed the Grain Marketing Board to immediately start moving grain to food deficit areas and also asked Finance Minister Tendai Biti to release the money needed for the programme.
It will take a while for the grain to reach the people who are already hungry. Yet we knew all along that there would be shortages in these areas.
A pattern has already been established, which makes planning easier.
What has not been in place is a readiness to prioritise movement of food to the deficit areas. We say so because it takes a Cabinet directive to have money released to GMB for such a national exercise. By the time such a directive comes a lot of people would have suffered.
We need to rethink the whole approach to food distribution. If we are importing, let the food be imported from the nearest route for the food to reach the people.
Towards the end of last year, Government came up with a grain loan scheme for rural people under which they can borrow grain from the GMB and then return it when they harvest.
Early this year the scheme was further extended after realising that a lot of farmers may not be able to return the grain after rainfall shortages affected their yields.
There is also a separate scheme for vulnerable groups and individuals such as the elderly, orphans and the disabled who can access grain and not be expected to return it.
So in terms of planning everything is in place. The Government tends to fall short on execution of those plans given the internal political contradictions that are in the inclusive Government.
We hope the Cabinet directives will be taken with the seriousness they deserve and we see grain moving to the deficit areas with greater speed.
All GMB needs is money to pay the transporters.
The effects of climate change are catching up with Zimbabwe as more parts of the country are experiencing rainfall shortages.
The 2011/2012 season that had begun on a promising note has ended rather disastrously as more provinces than initially expected did not get good yields.
The country is now expecting to harvest one million tonnes of maize for the 2011/2012 summer cropping season.
This will leave a deficit of nearly a million tonnes, which is quite a lot of grain to be moved either from the strategic reserve or imports.
GMB does have the infrastructure and skilled manpower to handle the distribution of grain, what it does not have is the funding.
It is therefore not enough to just have the grain in place when planning for the strategic reserve.
There is need for part of that to be cash that can be used to import and transport the grain to the needy areas.
As a country we have previously done well in feeding our hungry citizens.
Drought is not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe as it has been with us for most of the 32 years of independence and the experience is available in terms of what to do and how to do it.
There is therefore no reason for anyone to starve.
We also encourage those in urban areas with the financial resources to support their folks in the rural areas to do so and not wait for Government to do everything.
Those trading in grain should be warned against exploiting the hungry. Let them desist from cheating these people out of their cattle and goats for small amounts of grain.
We encourage them to trade fairly in the spirit of helping the needy and not just profiteering.