Food imports draining fiscus – VP Mnangagwa

Food imports draining fiscus – VP Mnangagwa

HARARE, August 26 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa says continued reliance on food imports is draining the country’s already strained resources and that aggressive measures are needed to improve agricultural production.

Agricultural production in the southern African nation, at one time among the highest in the region, has over the years plunged following successive droughts and a chaotic land redistribution programme at the start of the millennium.

Harare is this year planning to import 700,000 tonnes of maize from neighbouring South Africa and Zambia to avert a food crisis after a dismal 2014/15 farming season, with maize and small grains production decreasing by 49 percent and 71 percent respectively due to a prolonged dry spell.

“These unplanned expenditures on food imports are a major drain on the fiscus and they further worsen our balance of payments position already negatively affected by imports of fuel and manufactured products,” said Mnangagwa while addressing an agribusiness conference on Wednesday.

“At a time when the economy is experiencing stagnation there is need to minimize imports, particularly of goods and services that can be produced locally.”

On Tuesday the World Food Programme (WFP) said around 1,5 million Zimbabweans will require food aid this year after the dramatic fall in maize production.

In 2014, Zimbabwe registered a trade deficit of $3,3 billion and expects a similar figure this year despite government raising levies on non-essential products to try curb reliance on imports.