Harare - Zimbabwe has only eight weeks worth supply of maize in reserve, triggering fears of massive hunger in the country early in 2016.
This was revealed by grain millers in a request to Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made, where they said they had made numerous efforts to have import permits issued to private firms, but had found no joy.
Zimbabwe has in the past few years been importing grain from its neighbouring countries, but now with the current El Nino drought, even neighbour Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has put a ban on the export of the staple crop.
The millers this week said they had made numerous efforts to have Made issue the permits so they could import maize from South Africa and South America, but the minister was not forthcoming on the issue.
It has also emerged that if the situation was not addressed immediately, Matabeleland provinces would be the hardest hit, with only a week’s supply left at present.
“Our count, as at December 15, 2015, revealed that there is circa (about) 248 000 metric tonnes of maize in the country, both for livestock and human consumption. This figure includes the Grain Marketing Board’s strategic grain reserves of 152 000 metric tonnes,” the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said.
“I have been battling to secure a meeting with you and alert you of the current national maize stocks which stand at a precarious position.
“In essence, we now have less than eight weeks’ cover. There is need to mobilise maize from South America, since Zambia has put an export ban on FRA maize. Our members’ application for South American maize is being declined by your ministry.”
The millers said the issue was “quickly deteriorating” and they hoped the permits would be issued forthwith “to avert a serious shortage of maize in the first quarter of next year”.
GMAZ Matabeleland Chapter chairman Thembinkosi Ndlovu said the situation in Matabeleland was now “dire and degenerating into a security matter”.
“I regret to advise you that maize supplies for commercial milling in Bulawayo currently stand at one-week supply and the situation will deteriorate to no supply level very soon. Our chapter is deeply disappointed by your [Made] ministry’s decision to decline application of maize imports from South Africa and South America for the milling of maize meal and livestock feeds,” Ndlovu said.
“Food is a constitutional right and we are entitled to demand, as we hereby do, for your office to start forthwith to issue permits to all grain traders which are mentioned in the maize importation plan submitted to you by our national office.”
Made was not reachable on his mobile number.
The millers also copied the letter to Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Eunice Sandi Moyo and the Zanu PF provincial leadership.
The GMAZ Matabeleland Chapter said alternatively, they would be forced to seek legal recourse to compel government to issue the permits.
For a decade and a half now, Zimbabwe’s agricultural yields have taken a knock following the chaotic land reform programme which saw the majority of white former commercial farmers kicked off arable farms.