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Ncube courts UK investors for food security support

FINANCE, Economic Development and Investment Promotion minister Mthuli Ncube says addressing food loss and waste is critical to improving food and nutrition security.

FINANCE, Economic Development and Investment Promotion minister Mthuli Ncube says addressing food loss and waste is critical to improving food and nutrition security.

This comes as the country is reeling under an El Niño-induced drought, which saw average to below average rainfall for the 2023-24 summer cropping season, which in turn affected yields.

Speaking to investors at the Zimbabwe Investment and Capital Markets Conference in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, Ncube said the agricultural sector was one of the main investment areas they could explore.

“Agriculture is a significant sector in Zimbabwe, contributing about 12% to GDP [gross domestic product]. The country has abundant land and favourable climatic conditions and a substantial number of dams,” he said.

“This presents opportunities in commercial farming, agribusiness and value-added processing. Investments in irrigation systems, mechanisation, and export-oriented agriculture are lucrative. Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed 16 million people.”

The minister said growth in the agricultural sector was two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the less-developed economies.

“The growing impact of climate change could further reduce agricultural yields, especially in the world’s most food-insecure regions. At the same time, our food systems are responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions,” Ncube continued.

“Addressing food loss and waste is critical to improving food and nutrition security, as well as helping to meet climate goals and reduce stress on the environment.”

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), poor 2024 crop harvests, below-normal seasonal agricultural labour and other income-earning opportunities, high food prices and constrained purchasing capacity will maintain crisis food security outcomes.

These challenges will be felt across the typical deficit-producing areas in the south, east, west and extreme north of the country, during the harvest and post-harvest periods.

“However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level outcomes are anticipated in some typical surplus-producing parts of the Mashonaland provinces and other areas during the harvest and immediate post-harvest periods due to slight 2023 carryover stocks for some households, in addition to the well below average 2024 harvests,” FEWS NET said in its recently published May 2024 food security update.

“However, households in these areas will increasingly engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) area-level classifications likely to emerge in some areas as the lean season progresses.”

FEWS NET said in May, government estimated that 744 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize, the nation’s staple grain, and other small grains would be harvested for the current 2023/24 agricultural season.

“Of this, around 635 000MT is maize, about 60% lower than the 10-year average for national maize production. Relatedly, following the poor harvest, 42 of the 60 rural districts were classified as having just zero to three months of cereal self-sufficiency for the 2024/25 consumption year (April 2024 March 2025),” FEWS NET said.

“With around 309 000MT in the strategic grain reserves as of April 9, 2024, Zimbabwe will need to import significant amounts of cereal for the 2024/25 consumption and marketing year to meet the national annual cereal requirement of 2,2 million MT.”

FEWS NET said since South Africa would likely have a reduced exportable maize surplus this marketing year, maize imports are largely anticipated to come mainly from South America.

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