Agriculture Minister blames starvation on Forex and drought

Grain waits at Mozambique port
HARARE - Government failure to find US$300m in foreign currency to pay for grain held in a Mozambique port is to blame for the country's starvation, according to Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo.
Gumbo's revelations come at a time when the Zimbabwean government

has rejected food aid from international organisations and European countries, saying it does not want food aid with conditions. The government also accuses donor agencies of using food aid as a political tool in support of the opposition parties.
Responding to a question in parliament on when the Zanu (PF) government would collect the maize and wheat imported from Brazil and held in Beira, Gumbo said the maize would only be available to starving Zimbabweans once foreign currency was available.
Zimbabweans have been facing serious shortages of basics such as electricity, fuel and maize meal since the country embarked on its land reform programme in 2000.
“We are looking into all aspects of bringing sufficient wheat and maize into the country and within the next few weeks we will be able to collect the imported grain,” he said.
The Minister said the government was aware of the current shortages of mealie-meal and bread and was doing everything possible to ensure that food was available in the country.
One MDC MP, however, said Gumbo’s statement showed that Zanu (PF) was delaying bringing in grain until the time of the parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
Minister Gumbo attributed the current food shortages to drought. Zimbabwe needs 1.8m tonnes of maize a year, but managed to produce only 953,000 tonnes during the season, down from 1.5m tonnes harvested last year.
Mr Gumbo said grain production needed to be intensified during the coming season to avert food shortages.
The state-controlled Herald reported that, by June this year, the government had imported 500,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia and Malawi at a cost of US$280m and recently gave an extra $Z2 trillion to the Grain Marketing Board to buy grain.
The Minister refuted claims that some fertiliser manufacturing companies had closed down, saying they had only scaled down operations due to foreign currency, fuel and electricity shortages.
He also assured the nation of adequate maize seed supplies in the forthcoming farming season.
“We are satisfied with the supply of seed to farmers,” he said, adding that the GMB had already started distributing fertiliser to farmers.
The government would continue to limit movement of maize to 150kg to curb black market trading.

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