Zimbabwe is looking to import grain as the country is faced with an acute grain shortage for the next two years due to drought, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has said.
GMAZ Chairperson Mr Tafadzwa Musarara said Zimbabwe and the whole of southern African region are faced with drought which could last the next 24 months.
He said the country is already in talks with grain producing countries for possible imports to cover the country’s grain deficit.
“Zimbabwe has had a drought this year and if you look, since 1980 it has always been a two year period and this is a climatic issue.
“The country will have a grain deficit for the next 24 months, if not beyond; hence the imports have to come. It is not only in Zimbabwe but the whole of Southern African region is currently grain insecure, they will be importing.
“So we are making plans now to re-engage our usual suppliers like Mexico and hope we will get something because there is a problem in Venezuela next door, Brazil has ruled out exports and we are working with Ukraine and others to see if we are going to get imports of maize and wheat,” Musarara said.
He said despite the country facing foreign currency shortages they will do their best to ensure that grain is imported to try and cover the deficit.
Due to poor rainfall in the current 2018/19 cropping season, Zimbabwe’s maize harvest dropped drastically with about 776 600 metric tonnes expected compared to 1.9 million metric tonnes last year.
Musarara warned wholesalers and retailers against profiteering through overcharging of basic commodities under the GMAZ radar, saying they risk being cut off from their supply line with the association currently implementing price monitoring system but not controls.
He said government has vested interest in such products as maize mealie-meal and wheat flour as it subsidizes the products to ensure they are affordable to consumers, with an estimated RTGS$10 for every 10kg of mealie-meal paid by government.
The GMAZ monitors mainly four critical products which include maize mealie meal, wheat flour, rice and salt from the 16 products listed as being critical in the country.
Musarara said GMAZ does not want its products to be politicized and used to incite people into protests.
“Given the sensitivity of these products especially when you look at maize meal, it becomes a security issue and as an industry we have said we don’t want our products to be part of the political narrative.
“We don’t want our products to be weaponized by certain political actors to drive people into the streets because its either they are not available or if they are available they are expensive,” he said.
Also pointed out as a challenge to food security in the country was the inflationary environment which has seen production costs spike with a shortage and price increase of fuel as well as erosion of salaries.
Meanwhile, contention arose during the deliberations after presentations concerning the future of the country in as far as inflation is concerned, with uncertainty being proclaimed.
GMAZ consultant, Dr. Gift Mugano from Africa Economic Development Strategies said inflation had risen from 20.9 percent in October 2018 to 97.98 percent currently driven by speculative and unjustified pricing.
He said if the current pricing trend is maintained and the salaries remain stagnant, product prices will reach a plateau where people will just watch without buying which will force prices to decrease, in turn inflation will recede.
This was however disputed by the National Chairperson of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Mr Philip Bvumbe who said by December the inflation rate would have reached more than 150 percent.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube is on record saying the country’s inflation rate is expected to remain high until October this year before dropping by early next year.