ZIMBABWE is left with eight weeks’ maize supply, raising fears of massive hunger should Agriculture minister Joseph Made delay issuing permits to millers who want to import maize from South Africa, it has emerged.
For the past few years, Zimbabwe has been importing the staple grain from neighbouring Zambia, but the northern neighbour’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has since put a ban on the export of maize.
Although repeated efforts to contact Made were fruitless yesterday, millers claimed that the Ministry of Agriculture was reportedly not forthcoming in issuing permits to private firms willing to import maize from other countries including South Africa and from South America.
Millers have written to Made requesting a meeting to avoid the looming hunger disaster early next year.
“I have been battling to secure a meeting with you and alert you of the current national maize stocks which stand at a precarious position,” a letter by the millers to Made read in part.
“Our count, as at December 15, 2015, revealed that there is circa (about) 248 000 metric tonnes of maize in the country both for livestock and human consumption. This figure includes the Grain Marketing Board’s strategic grain reserves of 152 000 metric tonnes.
“In essence, we now have less than eight weeks’ cover. There is need to mobilise maize from South America, since Zambia has put an export ban on FRA maize. Our members’ application for South American maize is being declined by your ministry.”
The millers added: “We respectfully submit that the matter is quickly deteriorating and we ask for your office to instruct your officers to start issuing permits forthwith in order to avert a serious shortage of maize in the first quarter of next year. Thanking you in advance.”
It also emerged that the Matabeleland Millers’ Association chapter has also written to Made, asking the Agriculture minister to act on the matter as their region was the most affected.
In a letter to Made dated December 24, 2015, Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland chairperson Thembinkosi Ndlovu said the maize situation in Matabeleland provinces was dire and quickly “degenerating into a security matter”.
“I regret to advise that maize supplies for commercial milling in Bulawayo currently stand at one week’s supply and the situation will deteriorate to no supply level very soon. Our chapter is deeply disappointed by your ministry’s decision to decline application of maize imports from South Africa and South America for the milling of maize meal and livestock feeds,” Ndlovu wrote to Made.
The letter was copied to Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Eunice Sandi Moyo and the Zanu PF provincial leadership.
Ndlovu threatened to take Made to court if he failed to act on time.Newsday/Moses Matenga