IT never rains but it poors for Zimbabwe

The country's maize harvest is estimated to drop by 26% to 1 million tonnes after an estimated 45% of the crop that was planted this season was written off due to drought, the African Development Bank (ADB) has said.

As if that is not all, the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made yesterday also said Zimbabwe has missed the winter wheat plantindeadline primarily because fertiliser companies refused to release the product after government failed to settle a US$50 million debt streacthing back to several season.

The country's annual maize consumption is 1,8 milllion tonnes, with the Ministry of Agriculture saying it has build up about 400 000 tonnes in maize reserve about 400 000 would have to be imported to make up for the deficit.

"The hectarage of maize written off rose by 117% from the 333 637 hectares recorded in the 2010/2011 to the 2011/2012 levels of 722 557 hectares," said ADB.

Maize production in 2011 was 1,35 million tonnes.

"Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector is currently facing some challenges. The country has experienced severe droughts in some parts of the country and has estimated a deficit of one million tonnes of maize from the 2011/12 summer cropping season, a development which is likely to see the average price of maize increasing as the year progresses," ADB said.

Presending the 2012 national budget, Finance minister Tendai Biti did not allocate money for grain imports, probably leaving private companies to do so.

ADB said an estimated 83 882 hectares of sorghum planted this season had been written off with pearl and finger millet having 32 878 hectares and 5 621 ha being written off, respectively.

"The country currently has 5,2 million cattle 500 000 sheep and 3 million goats The beef sector made marginal gains of 2% from 5,1 million, while milk production increased 16%," sad ADB.

Prices for both wheat and maize changed direction several times during the month of March 2012 but closed the month 5% and 6,6% weaker,respectively.

ADB said US wheat and maize export prices lost all or most of the gains registered in early March. Wheat prices were influenced by the winter crop concerns in Europe and the Black Sea region although improved weather boosted prospects for US winter wheat.

Maize prices were initially lifted by tightening US availabilities, rumours of increased buying by China and rising soya-bean values.

"Maize prices could have been subdued by competition from lower grade wheat and barley for feed use, likely slowed down growth in industrial use and forecasted dip in US ethanol production because of stalling domestic and export demand," said ADB.

Prices may also have been affected by global stocks that are projected to increase modestly as a rise in the US more than offsets declines in China and Brazil.

According to Fewsnet latest report, in Southern Africa, adequate supplies of maize and other staple foods from the good 2011 harvests have held maize prices and the prices of other staples relatively stable or seasonally trending upward despite the lean season peaks.

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