BULAWAYO South MP Eddie Cross (MDC-T) has warned that poor transport logistics will likely impede the movement of grain maize imports from Zambia and Brazil and cause mass starvation in the country, although government has secured adequate funds to purchase the staple grain.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Cross rang the alarm bells while contributing to a motion on the State of the Nation Address by President Robert Mugabe.
He said Zimbabwe needed to import 2 400 000 tonnes of maize and wheat in the next 18 months, but warned that the slow pace at which the imports were being transported could cause serious maize shortages.
The opposition legislator warned that if Zimbabwe failed to make some emergency transportation arrangements by resuscitating railway movements, there was real possibility that domestic demand of maize would not be met.
“On December 15, 2015, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had, in its stocks, 150 000 tonnes of maize and they are distributing this stock at a rate of 10 000 to 15 000 tonnes per month, largely on a welfare basis to affected families in drought stricken areas. The private sector held on January 15, 2016, a total of 119 000 tonnes,” Cross said.
“The total stock in transit on the same day was 90 000 tonnes, largely in the form of maize from Argentina and Zambia. This gave us as total stockholding at the middle of January 2016 of 359 000 tonnes, which is two months’ supply at our domestic demand of 150 000 tonnes per month.
“If we assume GMB stocks are used at the rate of 10 000 tonnes a month, which is 200 000 bags a month, largely for the purposes of welfare, then stocks at GMB cannot be considered as part of the commercial stockholding for the country.”
Cross said the snail’s pace in transporting maize was extremely worrying as the total capacity of Beira [Mozambique] at the moment was 20 000 tonnes per week, meaning on a monthly basis, 86 000 tonnes would be transported.
“If we can get only 86 000 tonnes a month through Beira, it leaves us with a shortfall of 40 000 tonnes a month, which has to come from other places, either Zambia or South Africa. At the present moment, the Zambian Food Reserve Agency is limiting exports from their own stocks and the total capacity logistically of taking maize from Zambia is about 40 000 tonnes a month.”
He said South Africa would have to import an estimated 7 000 000 tonnes of maize in the next 12 months, adding that translated to 500 000 tonnes a month, yet their ports have a capacity to transport 4 000 000 tonnes a year.
“This means all South African ports are going to be operating at capacity, just dealing with South Africa’s own requirements, and the requirements of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi are simply not going to be accommodated at South African ports,” Cross said.
“This is the first time in my life I have ever seen this situation where we could physically run out of maize. Every Zimbabwean knows the consequences as maize is the staple food.”