HARARE - Despite initially announcing that there are enough grains reserves to ensure food security in Zimbabwe, the statement made by the finance minister on Monday now acknowledges that it is the shortage of maize meal and flour in the market that is pushing prices of commodities like mealie meal and bread beyond the reach of the poor majority.
Earlier in May 2022 the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development, Dr. Anxious Masuka was quoted saying the country has sufficient grain reserves to meet the needs of the country despite having experienced a poor 2021/22 rainfall season.
“However, we have sufficient grain reserves to be able to meet our social welfare needs but climate change is real,” Masuka said according to a report by Chronicle in May.
Those assurances contradicted reports by some humanitarian agencies that as many as 5,5 million people in rural areas and 2,2 million in urban areas need food assistance following the poor harvests.
Meanwhile, Cabinet in February asked private grain millers to commence maize imports using their free funds to complement local stocks and enhance national food security. All these raised eyebrows and cast into doubt whether the government was being honest on its national food situation reports or not.
Presenting additional policy measures on Monday, Treasury Chief Professor Mthuli Ncube admitted that “our Strategic Grain Reserves are relatively below ideal levels.” He said there is an urgent need for government to intervene to bring stability in the price and supply of maize meal and bread flour in the economy.
To curb price growth, Ncube said the government will release to millers 20 000 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat and 27 000 MT of maize from its dwindling Grain Reserves for the next three (3) months.
“Millers have indicated that they will in turn import 70 000MT of wheat over the same period,” Ncube said adding that “The wheat will be sold at an import parity price of USD680 converted into local currency equivalent at the ruling exchange rate.”
On maize, he said that millers have indicated that they have 25 000MT of maize which has already been paid for and are ready to make a swap arrangement with the government, in this regard, Government will release the equivalent quantity of maize from the Strategic Reserve in July 2022 against the impending delivery of the purchased maize.
“Given the envisaged shortfall of both maize and wheat during the current season, the Government will expedite the importation of maize available in Malawi and Zambia, while wheat will be sourced from cheaper source markets,” said Ncube.
Economist Zvikomborero Sibanda said the release of grains from available reserves buttressed by imports is commendable as it will help reduce acute shortages and stiff price hikes of food for a country that experienced a poor 2021/22 agriculture season.
“However, to bring long-lasting solutions, the government should increase investments in climate-smart agricultural techniques like irrigation and short varieties.
“There is also a need to finalize the land audit to help identify underutilized multiple farms and redistribute them.
“To ensure efficient use of land, the government should implement the Use-It or Lose-It policy as well as address land tenure to make 99-year leases bankable,” he said.
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