The Government of Zimbabwe recently announced that the country had harvested 511 000 tonnes of maize for the 2015/2016 production year, against a national requirement of 2,2 million tonnes.

Preliminary results from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) had indicated that the country was likely to produce 445 600 tonnes of maize compared to last year’s 742 000 tonnes, reflecting a 40 percent decline from the previous season.

Government statistics therefore indicate that the country will require to import maize amounting to 1,7 million tonnes for both human and animal consumption and deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) indicate that farmers had so far delivered 175 000 tonnes.

Indications are that the GMB is holding 273 000 tonnes of maize in stock, inclusive of imports, which at an ex-GMB off-take rate of 35 000 tonnes per month, represents seven months of GMB sales.

Zimbabwe, like other countries in southern Africa facing the effects of a severe drought early this year, declared a state of disaster to allow for international aid organisations and government to raise cash for grain imports to meet the country’s annual grain requirement.

Announcing the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said the drought situation had undermined agricultural performance across provinces.

“With regards to maize production this year, indications are that output will be around 511 816 tonnes, against the initial projection of 450 000 tonnes. The higher than anticipated output is attributable to good rains received in the second half of the season that helped some of the late planted and re-planted maize crop,” Chinamasa said.

The country received below normal rains during the 2015/16 rainfall season resulting in poor water availability for human, livestock and other livelihood options from October last year, especially in the southern parts of the country.

“This adversely affected most crops, with lower yields projected for 2016 compared to last year. Decline in agricultural output of 4,2 percent comes even after taking into account the rainfall received from January, which allowed some maize re-plantings in some farming areas.

“This year’s estimated maize grain harvest of 511 816 tonnes falls short of the normal national grain requirement of 2,2 million tonnes,” Chinamasa added.

The grain harvest forecast, including the small grains harvest, sorghum and millet, indicates that the grain harvest for 2016 will be at 575 582 tonnes.

Government interventions to provide for the national maize grain deficit of 1,7 million tonnes are being complemented by the private sector and development partners’ imports.

By end of July government had imported 188 831 tonnes of maize and the private sector had imported 278 000 tonnes in the form of both maize and mealie meal.

As the country battles to overcome widespread drought that has affected four million Zimbabweans, government will this farming season introduce command agriculture, a special programme in which government identifies farms that would be required to produce maize for the next three years.

It aims to reduce grain imports and improve food security

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