The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) is urging the Ministry of Health and Child Care to halt the mandatory fortification programme as foreign currency shortages will make it difficult to import fortificants and machinery.
BY BUSINESS REPORTER
In a letter to Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa, GMAZ national chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara said the absence of local manufacturers of fortificants meant they have to be imported.
“Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was not part of the preparation committee and provisions done to procure and adequate foreign currency allocation. In fact, fortificants are not part of the Reserve Bank import priority list. Importers of fortificants will now have to join the long waiting list which is more than 24 months behind,” Musarara said in a letter dated August 16.
Food fortification is the process of adding minute levels of vitamins and minerals to foods during processing.
Musarara said Parirenyatwa was yet to negotiate for the exemption of customs duty and value added tax on imported fortificants.
The milling and baking industry, Musarara said, have an aggregate outstanding nostro currency liabilities of $87 million of shipments received and consumed as way back as August.
“Wheat, for example, that was imported and milled for the festive [season] last year is yet to be paid for. The absence of a special foreign currency allocation to pay for these fortificants will simply fuel the black market, which is currently trading at a premium of 35%,” he said.
Zimbabwe is undergoing a serious foreign currency shortage. The situation has been worsened by the introduction of bond notes which economists blame for chasing away “good money” in the form of the United States dollar.
Bond notes were introduced last year as an export incentive facility guaranteed by the African Export Import Bank to the tune of $200 million. The notes are supposed to be at par with the United States dollar.
Musarara said the mandatory fortification programme encumbered private sector to fund, without compensation or incentive from government, acquisition of machinery and fortificants.
“This exercise will require millers to obtain $14 million nostro currency for the payment of delivery, installation and commissioning of dousing machinery. A further $4 to $5m will be required to obtain monthly fortificants supplies. The millers have no additional capital to procure the nostro currency, even if it is available,” he said.
In 2015, Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Food Fortification Strategy 2014 – 2018 to address the micronutrient deficiency burden in the country as revealed by the 2012 Zimbabwe Micronutrient Survey. According to the survey, 19% of children 6 – 59 months are vitamin A deficient, whilst 72% have iron deficiency, and 31% are anaemic, and nearly 1,5 million working age adults with anaemia suffer deficits in work performance.