Government has issued interim permits for the importation of maize in the country in order to beef up strategic grain reserves. The maize is landing at between 0 and 0 per metric tonne. The move is a short term relief measure and will expire in three months at the same time the local harvesting season is starting.
Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Tafadzwa Musarara yesterday welcomed the move and said the imports would help replenish the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).
“The imports are being done primarily for two reasons. Firstly we need to beef up the strategic grain reserves. We know this is the responsibility of the Government but industry has to build its own in light of the fact that the rains have been erratic.
“In the event of a poor rainy season, the country needs strategic reserves in order to feed the people.”
The international requirement for staple food reserves is a three-year cover to cater for periods when there are successive droughts.
However, Zimbabwe’s cover is at about four months as the country has suffered from lack of funding and erratic rains over the years.
Mr Musarara said the imports would cushion the market against price surges.
“Secondly, when the local harvest stock is depleted there is a tendency for prices to go up. However, if we import sufficient maize stock, we will cushion the consumer against price increases. We need to create that balance.”
Zimbabwe was also taking advantage of the maize export windows which had been opened up in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa.
“There is no shortage of maize in the country but our neighbouring countries have good reserves. In spite of last year’s good harvest which was a result of the successful Presidential Input Scheme we are still behind in meeting the international requirement of three-year cover for staple foods” said Mr Musarara.
Zambia last year had an excess of about 1 million tonnes of maize, Malawi had 0,6 million tonnes and South Africa was 3,8 million tonnes in surplus.
Zimbabwe consumes about 105 000 tonnes/month.
Mr Musarara said it was the duty of both the Government and industry to supply staple food. This he said would reduce the dependency on donor organisations for food aid.
He said that in that respect, the irrigated crop under contract farming is bigger this year and is expected to enter the market starting from around mid-March.
Around 250 000 hectares has been put under contract by the milling and grain traders industry .