Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
ZAMBIA suspended maize exports to Zimbabwe last week to help build reserves in light of a looming El Nino-induced drought, local grain importers confirmed last Friday.
The suspension has affected local grain importers who are now battling to bring in about 70 000 tonnes of maize worth $24 million which they had already purchased.
“The future (in Zambia) is uncertain because they are also putting an importation programme,” Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe Mr Tafadzwa Musarara told a stakeholder workshop on the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation.
“So they have suspended exports to Zimbabwe with effect from last week and this has affected some of our members who have made prepayments for about 70 000 tonnes.”
Mr Musarara said the GMAZ has since engaged the Zambian authorities to have the maize released. The local grain companies were importing from Zambian private dealers after the Zambian government banned exports by state-owned Food Reserve Agency.
The effect of the El Nino, a weather phenomenon, which causes drought is affecting the whole southern Africa region and is most likely to result in low agricultural output.
As a result, the Government has since mobilised $200 million for grain importation while President Mugabe declared a State of emergency due to the prevailing drought. This prompted international donor community to raise $60 million for food security.
The Government and the private sector have been pro-active in making sure there will be consistent supply and availability of grain. Zimbabwe intends to import grain from South America.
A deal was struck recently in which the Mozambican Rail and Ports Authority 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 Chicualacuala 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.