Zimbabwe to import 700,000 tonnes of maize after poor harvest

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe plans to import 700,000 tonnes of the staple maize grain to plug a deficit after bad weather affected the crop from the current farming season, state radio reported on Tuesday.

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It quoted Agriculture Minister Joseph Made as saying Zimbabwe had 150,000 tonnes of maize in stock and was looking to import to make up for the shortfall.

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Zimbabwe requires at least 1.8 million tonnes of maize annually and has over the years relied on imports from neighbouring countries, including Zambia and South Africa, to plug the gap from local production.

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Domestic output is expected to drop by 35 percent to 950,000 tonnes this year compared with 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has said.

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Earlier this year the government, anticipating a low maize harvest, lifted a ban on imports it had imposed last year.

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Made said the government would focus on delivering food to rural areas while private millers would import maize to sell in urban areas. He was not immediately available for comment.

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Agriculture contributes 17 percent to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product and the decline in maize production is expected to impact on growth, which the government has forecast at 3.2 percent for 2015.

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