George Maponga and Elita Chikwati
Government has started importing 150 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa to guarantee national food security before the next main harvest in April.
This will augment ongoing grain imports from Zambia at a time the Strategic Grain Reserve has 30 000 tonnes of maize in its silos.
In addition, the Government is importing 10 000 tonnes of top dressing fertilisers to forestall potential shortages for the commodity.
It is projected that demand for fertiliser will balloon this month due to the wet conditions.
Large swathes of Zimbabwe were affected by drought in the 2012-13 agricultural season resulting in poor harvests, especially in the southern provinces, leaving hundreds of thousands of households in need of food relief.
This prompted Government to import 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia, 10 000 tonnes of which have been delivered, after also introducing the Grain Loan Scheme.
Statistics from the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry show that more than 205 000 households have benefited from the Grain Loan Scheme.
According to figures from the 2012 census by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency, the average family size is 4.2.
This means as many as a million people could have benefited from the Grain Loan Scheme.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Cropping) Davis Marapira yesterday said Government had started importing maize from South Africa to augment grain coming in from Zambia to ensure the country had sufficient food stocks over the next four months.
Deputy Minister Marapira would not reveal how much the deal was worth, but said some of the maize was already in the country.
He said it was cheaper and logistically easier to move grain from South Africa to southern Zimbabwe than to bring it in from Zambia, which is in the north.
“Government struck a deal with South African farmers to supply the 150 000 metric tonnes and the maize is being delivered by road and I am happy that so far over 300 metric tonnes have already been delivered into the country in Bulawayo, from where it will be moved to other parts of the country,” he said.
“We decided to import maize from South Africa because grain can be moved quicker from there as compared to Zambia because of the good transport links between the two countries (Zimbabwe and South Africa).
“Of course we are still getting maize imports from Zambia but the movement of the maize into the country is very slow,” he added.
The Agriculture Deputy Minister revealed that the Strategic Grain Reserve had 30 000 tonnes of maize in stock.
In addition, he said Government had turned to South African suppliers for 10 000 tonnes of top dressing fertiliser.
The prevailing wet spell in the country, he said, had caused demand for fertiliser to shoot up hence Government’s decision to import additional fertiliser from its southern neighbout.
“The fertiliser is part of a package to assist mainly communal farmers under the Presidential Wellwishers’ Inputs Support Scheme,’’ he explained.
Zimbabwe last year struck a deal with Zambia to import 150 000 tonnes of maize following poor yields in the previous farming season.
However, delivery of the maize has been slow owing to logistical and other challenges.
Zimbabwe needs 2,2 million tonnes of maize every year to meet national requirements.
The Agriculture Ministry this week revealed that upwards of 205 000 households across the country had benefited from Government’s Grain Loan Scheme.
The scheme was introduced in September 2013 and by December 4 more than 11 000 tonnes of maize had been distributed to food deficit areas.
According to statistics from the Agriculture Ministry, 32 700 beneficiaries in Manicaland received 1 635 tonnes of maize, while in Midlands, 28 000 families got 1 400 tonnes.
Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces have the highest numbers of beneficiaries with 40 000, 38 000 and 36 300 families, respectively, benefiting from the programme.
At least 4 000 households in Mashonaland West received 1 780 tonnes and about 9 200 in Mashonaland East got 462 tonnes of grain. The figures for Mashonaland Central was 4 000 households getting 859 tonnes of maize.
The Mashonaland provinces generally produce more food than the other regions.
Agriculture Minister Dr Joseph Made assured the nation that Government would ensure no one starved.
President Mugabe, at Zanu-PF’s Annual National People’s Conference in December 2013, gave the re-assurance that no one would die of hunger despite drouhgt, unavailability of affordable agricultural inputs and the broader effects of the illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by some countries opposed to land reforms here.
Dr Made said maize imports stood at 213 400 tonnes between April 2012 and March 2013, while maize meal imports stood at 14 691 tonnes over the same period.