Grain stocks dangerously low

HARARE - Zimbabwe's grain shortages are approaching critical levels despite government attempts to import from neighbouring countries.
State media report that another 2,000 tonnes of a 150,000 tonne maize tender are due to arrive from South Africa next Wednesday, to replenish reserves which

Grain Marketing Board (GMB) officials said were at ‘critical’ levels. But the rest of the tender has yet to be made public.
According to local experts, the only country in southern Africa with a grain surplus – and a narrow one at that – is South Africa.
“The (Zimbabwean) government have pretty much mismanaged the tendering process,” said one Harare-based economist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There’s very little on the way. For months they denied there was a need to import, and by the time they changed their tune, most of it was allocated. There’s not much more than a week or two’s supply left.”
Even if the government can source more supplies, there is little foreign currency to buy it and too little transport and fuel to distribute it to where it is most needed, he said.
The government now says it needs about 600,000 tonnes to make up for domestic output, which fell to 450,000 tonnes this season, from 2.04 million tonnes in 2001.
The UN’s World Food Programme is appealing for US$60m to help feed nearly 600,000 people in the countryside officially at risk of starvation.
According to official newspapers, the government has seized 36,000 tonnes of maize from commercial farmers who were refusing to hand it over to the GMB – now Zimbabwe’s monopoly supplier.
More than 6,000 tonnes was seized from a German-owned farm, the paper said, despite efforts from German embassy staff to stop the process. But sources said the impounded product was yellow maize mostly destined for animal feed, and rarely used for human consumption. – Own correspondent

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