WASHINGTON DC— Zimbabwe is only left with a few weeks’ supply of maize and grain millers have appealed to Acting President, Phelekezela Mphoko, to lift a ban on the private importation of the staple grain.
The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe says hardest–hit Matabeleland region has only a week’s supply of grain reserves while some parts of the country have stocks only enough to last two months.
Agriculture Minister, Joseph Made, who was not reachable for a comment, was in July quoted as saying Zimbabwe was importing the 780,000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia that would see the country through to next year.
The Grain Millers’ Association says by last week the country only had 248,00 metric tonnes of maize against a monthly requirement of 150,000 tonnes.
Zimbabwe controls maize imports because it does not want genetically modified maize in the country. Zambia, which recorded a surplus of maize this year, had offered to sell maize to Zimbabwe but the offer was not taken.
Indications are that Zambia has now banned maize exports, leaving the millers to look up to South America since South Africa, which has helped Zimbabwe in the past, also recorded low harvests this year because of poor rainfall.
Chairman of the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe, Tafadzwa Musarara, told Studio 7 they are hoping that Acting President Mphoko will instruct Minister Made to lift the ban so that they can import maize from South America.
He said they were now eagerly waiting for Mphoko's response.
"In June last year we made recommendations to the honorable Minister of Agriculture (Joseph Made) saying that the shortfall of 800 000 tonnes was too much a figure to import from one country. We needed to open up all borders which include Plumtree, Beitbridge, Machipanda, Chirundu and others ... but regrettably the minister refused," said Musarara.
He said the minister did not give any reasons why he was refusing the importation of maize from other countries.
In 1992 Made told the nation that the country had enough maize to last until the next harvest but within a few weeks the country had run out of supplies leading to one of the most devastating droughts in the history of the country.
Zambia recorded a maize surplus this year, largely thanks to white farmers who were chased away from their farms in Zimbabwe.
But Musarara said: "The Zambian government has put a ban on any maize that is bought from its parastatals ... The current heatwave has not made the situation any better and they are now expecting a deficit as well."