The country needs to import over 700,000 tonnes of maize between now and the next harvest in 2016 to avert food crisis following the dry spell that affected crops in most parts of the country, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Joseph Made has said.
Only 150,000 tonnes of maize are in stock and the government is in the process of mobilising more grain.
Made yesterday said the results of the second crop assessment showed that Masvingo was the most affected province in terms of grain requirement, while Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West have surplus.
Other provinces that did not perform well are southern parts of Midlands, south of Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.
He said the provinces that did well-received a considerable share of the Presidential Well Wishers Inputs Scheme.
Mashonaland Central has a surplus of 76,000 tonnes while Mashonaland West has 54, 000 tonnes.
“In terms of total grain required, Masvingo requires about 131,000 tonnes, Manicaland requires 96,000 tonnes, Midlands, 93,000 tonnes, Matabeleland South 61,000 tonnes, Matabeleland 46,000 tonnes and Mashonaland East 44,000 tonnes.
“Harare requires 236,000 tonnes, while Bulawayo requires 72,000 tonnes,” he said.
Made said the 700,000 tonnes of maize to be imported was a precautionary figure that would cushion the country in terms of food supply in case the next season turned bad.
“We’re already using the strategic grain in depressed areas. The crop assessment includes Irish and Sweet potatoes. We’re anticipating close to 300,000 tonnes of sweet potatoes and 417,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes. Potato is a significant crop in terms of food.
“Last year, farmers produced 397,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes and this year production increased by five percent.
“This winter we also encourage farmers to produce Irish potatoes. Cabinet directed that we look at all food crops that can be grown. We should also include tubers such as cassava, which are strategic to human and livestock consumption,” he said.
Made said communal areas, A1, old resettlement and small-scale contributed 69 percent of the cereals produced this season, while A2 farmers produced 31 percent.
He commended the A2 farmers for their efforts in producing food.
“The A2 produced the crop under harsh as they did not get input support. We must give support to A2 farmers because they can achieve better yields per unit area because of their soils,” he said.
Made said some areas required food assistance in three months time while others required it later.
He said the gaps in the requirements would ensure the government was able to meet the food requirements.
“We’re expecting the private sector and millers to assist the government in urban areas, while the government takes charge of the rural areas,” he said.
Made said the government was concentrating on mechanisation and irrigation development to aid agriculture rainfall seasons had become unpredictable.
“Fortunately, the Brazilian programme will be launched soon and will go a long way in assisting farmers. We’ll give farmers irrigation equipment, pumps, tractors and planting implements,” he said.
He said the Ministry of Industry and Commerce was working hard to mobilise fertilisers.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation recently said Southern Africa’s maize harvest was expected to drop this year by about 26 percent compared to last year’s bumper harvest.
“The situation is likely to trigger food price increases and badly affect recent food security gains,” FAO has warned.