BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZIMBABWE has less than 100 000 tonnes (t) of grain in its strategic grain reserve — enough to feed the nation for only one month, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri, has said.
Officially opening his ministry’s strategic planning workshop in Bulawayo yesterday, Shiri admitted that, as a ministry, they were falling short of delivering on their national mandate which has five key result areas which include food and nutrition security; foreign currency generation; employment creation; value addition and beneficiation; and coordination of the agricultural sector.
“I strongly believe that agricultural development is a necessary tool and a near sufficient condition for economic recovery and development of Zimbabwe. As you are all aware, the sector has potential to contribute between 16-20% of the gross domestic product; 40% to exports; and feed the country while providing the source of livelihood for 67% of the country’s populace that resides in rural areas,” Shiri said.
“However, as things stand at the current moment, we have less than 100 000t of grain in the strategic grain reserve and imports, especially of food are ballooning. It pains me to realise that this potential remains to be exploited and that as a ministry we are falling short of delivering on our national mandate which has five key result areas as set out in the ministry’s integrated performance plan,” he said.
Annually, the country requires about 1,8 million tonnes of grain for both human and livestock consumption. It also needs about 80 000 tonnes a month for commercial use, according to Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz).
In a bid to plug a yawning food deficit, Zimbabwe is importing grain from other countries around the world.
The country’s food shortage has partly been blamed on weather extremes – drought and flooding, poor planning and corruption, among others.
For instance, in the past few years, government pumped billions of dollars into the Command Agriculture programme, but the country continues to suffer food shortages, year-in and year-out due to corruption involving government officials.
On Tuesday, Gmaz chairman Tafadzwa Musarara, however, assured the nation that the maize-meal situation will stabilise in the next three to five weeks following plans to import close to 100 000 tonnes of maize using their free funds.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, more than 45 million people across southern Africa are currently facing food insecurity. In Zimbabwe, more than eight million people are threatened with starvation.
Shiri also said the country’s food security policies had fallen short of attracting investments in the agriculture sector and ensuring economic growth.
“Our food security policies have fallen short of attracting investments in the sector and ensuring economic growth. Governments the world over, use policies to influence agricultural production, marketing and trade. This is usually done to achieve specific outcomes relating to the central role of agriculture,” he said.
In this regard, Shiri said there was a compelling need for agricultural policies that attract investment in the sector given the changes that have been brought by the agrarian reforms that altered the structure of farms, production systems, markets and labour relations.