By Kuda Chideme, HARARE July 13 (The Source) – Zimbabwe, which is facing a food crisis after a drought hit season, has poor logistics which could affect its efforts to import maize from Zambia, the only country in the region with a surplus, an official has said.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) has forecast Zimbabwe’s maize production for the 2014/15 season at 950,000 tonnes, over a third lower than the previous season due to a prolonged dry spell, with Harare planning to import 700,000 tonnes of white maize, mainly from neighbouring Zambia , to avert a food crisis following a drought that affected crops in most parts of the country this season.
But demand for Zambia’s maize has increased following a severe drought in the southern-African region which left several countries in the region needing to import to avert hunger.
FAO in April forecast Southern Africa’s maize output at about 21,1 million tonnes, 26 percent below the 2014 output and 15 percent lower than the average.
Grain Traders Association of Zambia director Jacob Mwale who was in Zimbabwe last week, said Zambia had put aside one million metric tonnes of maize from its record 2013/14 harvest of 3,2 million metric tonnes for export, but says Zimbabwe has poor logistics and border controls, managing to move 40,000 tonnes per month.
“Zambia has a surplus of between 800,000 metric tonnes and a million metric tonnes of maize which we are ready to export but it will depend on the price and how quickly we can move the grain,” Mwale said at a food conference in the capital last week.
“Currently for Zimbabwe we are able to move just about 40,000 metric tonnes per month so that would mean improving boarder clearance systems and documentation processes required for each consignment.”
Agriculture minister Joseph Made in May said the maize imports will cost the cash strapped government in excess of $200 million.
The country is holding 150,000 tonnes in reserves against a national requirement of 1,8 million metric tonnes.
FAO said the region needs to import 1,8 million tonnes this year.