Zim imports Zambian maize to avert disaster

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The Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) said it plans to import about 300 000 metric tonnes (mt) of maize from Zambia because Zimbabwe is expecting a poor harvest this year.

This comes amid reports that six of the country’s 10 provinces face severe food shortages because of a poor harvest.

Masvingo, parts of Manicaland, Midlands and the Matabeleland provinces are the worst affected although the government has not yet finished a crop assessment programme to determine the full impact of the drought.

GMAZ president Tafadzwa Musarara said they want to import more than 300 000mt of white genetically modified organisms-free maize from Zambia to augment local maize supplies.

“This meeting has been precipitated by the demand surge for locally produced maize meal as consumers shun cheap imports due to health concerns,” Musarara said.

“Our preference, as industry, is local maize. Imports only serve to augment local production. The liberalisation of the grain trade exposed us to speculation trading mainly by NGOs who buy maize and stock it. Hence, we had to look for alternative supplies in order to avoid the stop-start operations that our members are going through.”

The millers had earlier complained to Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) about the Zambian middlemen who inflated prices and caused delays in the loading of maize.

“We are also seeking to get the dispensation to buy direct from FRA and avoid Zambia middlemen,” Musarara said.

“Maize meal is our staple food and must be affordable to all consumers. The middlemen are only making the maize more expensive and that’s unfair. The volumes we are picking are arguably one of the highest in Africa and there is need to have the Zambians improve on their loading capacity.”

The milling, currently operating at 7% capacity utilisation, has seen company closures due to the uncontrolled influx of cheap imports from South Africa.
The industry that had 300 members in 2008 only has 18 members operating currently.

According to the first crop assessment carried out by end of January over two million hectares of maize had been planted compared to 1,8 million last season.

Zimbabwe received normal to above normal rains at the beginning of the farming season, but crops in some areas have already been declared a write-off as a result of the persistent dry spell experienced between February and March.

Zimbabwe was expecting 1,7 million tonnes from the 2010/11 farming season had the conditions remained conducive for high yields.