The state-controlled Herald newspaper on Tuesday reported a Grain Marketing Board (GMB) official as saying: "Maize running into thousands of tonnes imported by the government is piling up at ports in both Mozambique and South Africa because Mozambican, South African and Botswana railway authorities are failing to move the grain to the Zimbabwean border."
However, a spokesman for South Africa's rail transporter Spoornet said the parastatal had no backlogs to Zimbabwe and had recently achieved record turnaround times for a delivery to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city.
"We are very happy with the rate at which [deliveries] are going and we are not aware of any hold-ups from our side," Mike Asefovitz told IRIN.
He said that in anticipation of increased deliveries to Zimbabwe from South Africa this year, Spoornet had decided to refurbish about 400 mothballed grain wagons to cope with extra deliveries in the region and these should be functioning within six weeks.
A source in Maputo confirmed that there were hold-ups affecting about 90,000 mt of maize in Maputo and Beira ports destined for the state-run GMB due to turnaround delays in Zimbabwe and a lack of extra wagons in Mozambique.
A humanitarian official connected with the regional food aid effort said: "It's easy to blame the other administrations but it's not the whole truth. There are operational problems, but they are not necessarily due to neighbouring railway administrations.
"There is a sequence of problems which include the National Railways of Zimbabwe having shunting and offloading problems which affect the turnaround of their wagons."
The Botswana rail authority was not available to comment on the situation in that country.
Food shortages have left 7.2 million people in Zimbabwe dependent on food aid.
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